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Referendum in Taiwan: Name of the Olympic Committee and LGBT Rights

There was a general referendum on 10 issues on the island of Taiwan. The key points were questions about the name of the country in international competitions and the rights of LGBT groups.

People are participating in a rally ahead of the upcoming referendum on gay rights. Photo: Alberto Bazzola / LightRocket via Getty Images
People are participating in a rally ahead of the upcoming referendum on gay rights. Photo: Alberto Bazzola / LightRocket via Getty Images

Residents of the island of Taiwan took part in a referendum on issues from various spheres of life. The vote, which took place on November 24, was intended to determine the position of the inhabitants of the island on various aspects of domestic and foreign policy. LGBT rights and the name of the Olympic Committee are the main issues at this referendum.

Taiwan or Chinese Taipei

Now athletes from Taiwan are competing in the Olympic Games called “Chinese Taipei”. But in the referendum, an option is proposed using the name “Taiwan.” The team has been using the name “Chinese Taipei” since the 1980s. The decision to use such a name instead of the “Republic of China” was made in 1980, because of which Taiwan boycotted the Olympics in Montreal, Lake Placid and Moscow. China, which considers the territory of Taiwan its, boycotted the Olympics in 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972, where Taiwanese athletes were represented.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Do you agree that Taiwan should apply for participation in all international sporting events, including the Tokyo Olympics 2020, called “Taiwan”?[/perfectpullquote]
referendum question

Voting results

  • Yes – 4,244,180
  • No – 5,076,397
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Chinese Taipei is what is the name of the country? Not. We are the only member of the International Olympic Committee who is prohibited from using the name of his country. We are the only member of the IOC who should not sing their national anthem and raise their national flag. We are alone. This is how much China suppresses us. ”[/perfectpullquote]
Ji zheng
bronze medalist of the 1968 Olympics

However, regardless of the choice, everything could remain the same. The Chinese government has been considering Taiwan as its province since they were divided during the 1949 Civil War. On the issue with the province, the IOC is supported by China, which will host the 2022 Olympic Games. The IOC sent a letter to the Government of Taiwan and the National Olympic Committee with a warning about the possible non-admission of Taiwanese athletes to participate in the Olympic Games if a referendum decides to change the name of the team from the current Chinese Taipei to Taiwan.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The IOC hopes that the interests of the Olympic movement in Chinese Taipei prevail over political considerations in order not to create obstacles for the delegation of the Chinese Taipei NOC. The IOC warns that any pressure on the local Olympic Committee will be regarded as external intervention and may lead to “protective measures”.[/perfectpullquote]
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]This will give us a chance to compete and make our struggle known internationally. We have to put up with the name “Chinese Taipei”. I am sure that many people (in Taiwan) feel worried. But many understand that this is a reality in the international sports field. If we use our name, we will lose the chance to play for our athletes. The right of our athletes to participate in competitions is our main concern. And I think most Taiwanese understand this.[/perfectpullquote]
Jacqueline Yee-Ting Shen
Secretary General of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]This is insulting to us, because everyone knows that we are Taiwan. Chinese Taipei is neither a region nor a country. What is Chinese Taipei? Nobody knows. So let Taiwan be Taiwan.[/perfectpullquote]
George chang
referendum organizer

China has already impeded Taiwan’s attempts to establish its independence in the sports field. For example, the island lost the right to host the East Asian Youth Games under pressure from China. But this did not prevent the Summer Universiade from being held in Taiwan, where about 7,500 athletes participated. Chinese athletes missed the opening ceremony, but participated in the competition. At the closing ceremony, athletes from Argentina unfolded the real flag of Taiwan and waved the symbol of independence of the island, for which they received a reprimand from the IOC. But this gesture was warmly received by the spectators at the stadium, who applauded the Argentine athletes.

During the final campaign that preceded the vote, the NOC Taipei organized a press conference with athletes asking to vote against, because they were afraid that Taiwan would be completely excluded from international sports if the referendum votes to rename the NOC.

LGBT rights

Together with the vote on the name of the NOC, the inhabitants of the island voted on the issue of the legalization of same-sex relations and their rights. It is noteworthy that in the list with the proposed questions there are questions that mutually exclude each other. This is due to the fact that both parties, opponents and supporters of LGBT, have gathered enough supporters to submit the question to a general referendum.

In 2017, the Constitutional Court of Taiwan recognized that the definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman, in the Civil Code is unconstitutional and it infringes on the rights of minorities. In the decision it was stated that the Government was given 2 years to fix the country’s legislation. This decision was marked by the first LGBT resounding victory on the Asian continent.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The current situation does not allow the marriage to two people of the law of the same sex to create a long-term monogamous intimate associations with the aim to lead a life together. This is obviously a big legal omission[/perfectpullquote]
from the decision of the Constitutional Court of Taiwan

But opponents of such changes, after the decision of the court, stepped up and began mass protests. Due to the differences in the parliament of Taiwan legislation to legalize same-sex marriage remained unchanged.

The decision of the Constitutional Court was such a progressive decision, and it was a great joy for us. [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]But [/perfectpullquote] [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I did not expect that the anti-gay opposition would be so strong and would propose a referendum. I’m not sure what is positive for us as a result, because the opposition uses its financial resources to gain support by spreading fear, misinformation, lies and rumors through social networks, TV advertising and print media. We are concerned that the government will use the results of the vote as a basis for changing the laws and may come up with diluted legislation that does not fully protect our rights.[/perfectpullquote]

Vivian chen
civil servant, supporter of LGBT

In an attempt to influence (and in the future reconsider) the decision of the Constitutional Court, the alliance “Happiness for the Next Generation” gathered enough support to initiate a referendum on amending the Civil Code in terms of allowing marriages for same-sex marriage. Other groups suggested introducing a separate legal mechanism for same-sex couples to register their relationship. In response to this, LGBT supporters proposed their own point that the Civil Code should be changed. LGBT supporters turned to the people with a request to vote against conflicting points.

Vivian Chen and Corrin Chiang with his daughter.
Vivian Chen and Corrin Chiang with his daughter.

On the other hand, a number of celebrities and 27 large corporations, including Google, Microsoft and IBM, supported the call for same-sex marriage. About 100,000 people took part in a rally in support of equality of marriage a week before the vote, local media reported . According to a poll by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation a week before the vote, about 77% of the population supported the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If the Civil Code is amended, we will register our relationship as a married couple and I will be able to adopt our daughter (the biological parent is Chiang) in order to get legal rights to be raised. We want her to feel free and realize her dreams.[/perfectpullquote]
Vivian chen

In accordance with Taiwan’s referendum law, the usual majority of votes is sufficient to accept the voting results, provided that more than 25% of voters voted for one of the options. However, the current legislation does not specify how the points are regulated if mutually exclusive clauses are adopted at the referendum. According to a July poll conducted by a LGBT supporter, more than 80% of the population under the age of 35 supports same-sex marriage.

Questions submitted to referendum concerning LGBT

Do you agree that the rules of the Civil Code should restrict marriage only between a man and a woman?
Yes – 6,769,055 No – 2,546,900
“Do you agree that the Ministry of Education and individual schools should not teach homosexual education, as indicated in the Rules for the Enforcement of the Law on Gender Equality in Primary and Secondary Education Schools?”
Yes – 6,272,954 No – 3,012,492
Agree Are you with other types of marriages other than those specified in the marriage code in the Civil Code that protect the rights of same-sex couples who live together all the time?
Yes – 5,657,092 No – 3,603,517

The decisions that were made in the referendum should be enshrined in the laws of the country and they can not be significantly changed by the Constitutional Court of Taiwan. The court can only change the technical aspects, including the wording. In essence, this means that Taiwan faced the problem of passing conflicting laws.

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