In what many Taiwanese considered a belated action, the government yesterday held an international press conference voicing its support for Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君), who was controversially kicked out of the Asian Games in China on Wednesday, and called for a probe into the incident to ensure fair treatment for Taiwanese athletes.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has been criticized for not standing up for Yang in the immediate aftermath of the row on Wednesday in which Yang, one of the nation’s gold medal hopefuls at the Games, had almost defeated Vietnam’s Vu Thi Hau in a women’s under-49kg bout when she was disqualified with 12 seconds left in the first round.
Yang was told by the judge that she was disqualified because two extra sensors on the heels of her foot guards were against regulations. Despite protests from the Taiwanese delegation, who insisted the sensors were carefully checked and approved before her match, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) remained adamant that its ruling was correct, suggesting that Yang had cheated and that she and her coach would face further sanctions for staging a sit-in protest following the judge’s ruling.
At the press conference held in Taipei yesterday, Vice Premier Sean Chen said that a press statement posted on the Asian Taekwondo Union’s (ATU) Web site titled “Shocking Act of Deception by Chinese Taipei” was “not only a slander to the reputation of the athlete herself [Yang],” but also “defamation of the whole country and its nationals.”
A videotape of the match on Wednesday recorded by Video-Land Inc showed Yang remove the sensors in question before the bout began and that she did not have them on during the bout. It also showed that after Yang was called over for an inspection with 12 seconds left in the first round of her bout, a taekwondo referee went to the other side of the mat to pick up the two sensors that had been previously discarded and brought them back to the head referee, who made the decision to disqualify Yang.
“The facts speak for themselves. It’s very clear that Yang did not have the two sensors attached to the heels of her socks during the match,” Chen said. “The accusation made by the ATU against Yang are far from the facts.”
Chen said the disqualification was a “hasty decision” and the words the ATU chose to use in its accusation against Yang and the Taiwanese team were “irrational” and “not those that should be used on the official Web site of an international organization” such as the ATU.
He also accused the ATU of purposely misleading the public by suggesting that the Taiwanese team had a chance to explain its side of story when the WTF held a technical meeting to review the ruling by displaying on its Web site a photo of the meeting that included Chen Chien-ping (陳建平), chairman of the Chinese Taipei Taekwondo Association.
“I made a call to Chen Chien-ping. He told me that he did not attend the technical meeting, but was called in to be informed of its decision,” Sean Chen said.
Sean Chen said the government is prepared to file a complaint on the matter with the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), should Yang and the nation’s taekwondo association give their consent.
Sean Chen disagreed with reporters when facing questions about the government’s weak reaction to the incident and slow response in holding a press conference to state its official stance on the matter.
He said the Taiwanese delegation respected and followed established procedures in international competitions by filing a protest over the unfair ruling and waiting for arbitration.
“We initially thought the arbitration would have been made on the basis of the facts, but regrettably it was not. That’s why the government has made clear our solemn and firm position on the case after the arbitration process had been completed,” he said.
During the press conference, which lasted about 40 minutes, Sean Chen and Sports Affairs Council Deputy Minister Steven Chen (陳士魁) initially offered a softer stance. Sean Chen did not say the ATU should apologize over the incident until he was pressed by several reporters questioning the government’s bland response compared with the ATU’s accusation against Yang and Taiwan.
Late last night, the Executive Yuan followed up with a press statement, demanding that the ATU admit its mistake, offer an apology, give an explanation for the unfair ruling and offer reasonable compensation to Yang.
In the statement, the Executive Yuan questioned the fairness of the ruling as the ATU had changed its account over the past few days on the reason why Yang was disqualified.
“The discrepancies and inconsistencies in its different accounts prove that the ATU has been making up fallacious reasons in defense of its ruling,” the press release said.
Steven Chen said the ATU had agreed to reopen its investigation of the incident.
While the government will also ask the Olympic Council of Asia to look into the case, the Executive Yuan added it had also sent Minister Without Portfolio Ovid Tseng (曾志朗) to Guangzhou to look after Yang’s case.
Meanwhile, after staying mum for the past two days, the president yesterday broke his silence, pledging to fight for justice for Yang and demanding that the organizers offer a reasonable explanation after a thorough investigation of the incident.
“The fight will not stop until the organizers offer a legal and reasonable explanation. Until the truth comes out, we will not accept any accusations against the team. We oppose these accusations,” Ma said on the sidelines of a photo exhibition at the Huashan Creative Park.
“Yang spent over a year practicing for the contest and trained herself to be a great athlete. She passed all the inspections, but was disqualified. It is unacceptable for all of us,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus accused the government of being weak in its handling of the incident.
DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) alleged the incident was a scheme by China to remove Yang from the competition so that its team could bag the gold medal.
The Taiwan Solidarity Union accused the government of attempting to downgrade the Yang incident from “an insult to the country” to “unfair treatment of an athlete.” It demanded that the government stop prolonging the matter by laying out a timetable for filing arbitration on the matter.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG
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