Appeal to the Olympic Committee, Demand Justice for the Athletes
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 19, 2010
In the international arena, the Republic of China has long been forced to suffer in silence. This is equally true in international sports competition, especially Taekwondo matches. Recently our own Asian Games competitor Yang Shu-chun racked up nine wins and no losses in the first round of competition. At this point, the referee suddenly "disqualified" her. This unprecedented move left people in shocked disbelief. The government has decided that it must appeal to the International Court of Arbitration. It intends to keep a close eye on the case. We must be given a satisfactory explanation. We must demand accountability. Otherwise, citizens of the ROC will not be mollified.
When Yang Shu-chun heard the referee rule that she had lost during the Beijing Olympics, she sat on the floor and wept. She was not the only one who found the ruling unacceptable. Every citizen who watched the match on TV found it unacceptable. The reason was simple. When Yang Shu-chun entered the arena for pre-game inspection, the committee asked her to change her electronic socks. She changed them, and after undergoing a second inspection, including one by the chief examiner, no further mention was made of a problem with the electronic socks. If the socks were a problem, she would have changed them. But the referee refused to listen to objections, and summarily disqualified her. In which case, just exactly what did the previous inspector and chief examiner inspect and examine?
According to the Asian Taekwondo Union, Yang Shu-chun's electronic socks had an extra sensor at the heels. Again, if they really had an extra sensor, why was the problem not mentioned during the pre-game inspection? Why was it discovered only after the match began? The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) later claimed that the sensor was installed in an illegal location by Yang Shu-chun after she entered the arena. How strange is that? She was subjected to two inspections, yet nothing was found. If Yang installed the sensor after entering the arena, why did no one see her do it? Why was she disqualified only after the match had already begun?
By an unfortunate coincidence, the referee was again Korean. After the incident happened, netizens lashed out online. Some even launched a movement to boycott Korean films and Korean goods. Some posted videos on YouTube of Korean kimchee being dumped. South Korea's "patriotic referees" are internationally renowned. This is not the first time ROC athletes have been victimized by Korean referees. Japanese athletes have also been subjected to the same treatment. But was the current incident merely an arbitrary "act of patriotism" by a South Korea referee? The public is furious, but it must remain calm, First, the electronic socks Yang Shu-chun wore were Korean made. If anything should be disqualified, it should be Korean merchandise. Secondly, no Korean athletes were competing in Yang Shu-chun's class. Whether Yang Shu-chun took the gold medal had nothing to do with whether South Korea would bask in glory. The Korean referee had no reason to hand down an unfair ruling. If his decision was wrong, the WTF or the Asian Games must investigate thoroughly. If he made a mistake, the problem is his lack of professionalism.
Because South Korea did not participate, netizen rage has been directed at Mainland China. Netizens have blamed the incident on the Mainland athletes who hoped to win the gold medal, whose most likely opponent was Yang Shu-chun. This anger is also unnecessary. Win or lose, Mainland Chinese friendship with Korea, however deep, can never be deeper than cross-Strait relations. The Korean referee has absolutely no reason to make such a counter-intuitive ruling on behalf of Mainland athletes. We now know that the Referee Committee initially intended to suspend the entire ROC taekwondo team, but the Mainland rebuffed it out of hand. Instead, members of the media from the two sides of the Strait began bickering, leaving everyone dumbfounded, Mainland reporters scolded reporters from Taiwan. Their conduct was outrageous. Taiwan reporters responded angrily with "You're talking shit!" Their behavior was equally inappropriate. Lest we forget, this was an international forum. Regardless of one's occupation or status, one's words and deeds are those of Republic of China citizens.
Others angrily scolded the Ma administration as weak and incompetent. In fact Sports Commission Chairman Dai Chia-ling, who was on the scene at the time, immediately lodged a vehement protest. He demanded that the Asian Taekwondo Union investigate the incident. If any mistakes were made, she insisted, the union would have to assume full responsibility. If a satisfactory accounting was not forthcoming, she said, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee would appeal to the International Court of Arbitration. It would demand that the International Olympic Committee see that justice was done. Premier Wu Den-yih also issued a strongly worded statement. He ordered Dai Chia-ling to present the strongest case possible, and safeguard our national dignity. We must not allow our athletes to wronged, he said. "We must not swallow this indignity!"
Premier Wu voiced intense ROC objections. In fact he was already pointing the finger and naming names. Premier Wu was blasting Sports Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chen Hsien-chung, whose initial behavior was highly disingenuous. The SAC is supposed to serve the athletes. The SAC failed to provide a good environment for the training of athletes. This is reason enough for it to be ashamed. Who knew Chen would say something so outrageous as "When athletes encounter such unjust rulings, they have no choice but to swallow them." He failed to consider the hard work the athletes put in. He even failed to consider the plight of his own comrades on the front line. Even as the chairman was lodging a protest with the committee, and the athletes were weeping in the arena, the Vice Chairman was telling the athletes they had no choice but to passively accept unjust rulings. No wonder he provoked such universal outrage.
You might kill me, but you may not insult me. ROC citizens have thrown their full support behind Yang Shu-chun. SAC members must grow spines. It is not enough to demand that the Asian Taekwondo Union offer us a satisfactory explanation. We must appeal the International Olympic Committee. The fairness of the Asian Taekwondo Union has repeatedly been called into question. Only with sufficient international pressure, can we ensure good sportsmanship, and establish fair and equitable rules of the game. Only such a sporting event makes sense. Only such a sporting event can win public respect.