A group of spectators attending the Asian Baseball Championship match between Chinese Taipei and Japan on Sunday displayed banners that read: “Taiwan is Taiwan—Don’t say Chinese Taipei again” and “Taiwan is not Chinese Taipei.”

Police in Taichung, central Taiwan dispatched more than 200 officers to the Intercontinental Stadium to “prevent unnecessary clashes,” but the game play below remained undisturbed by the group’s political statement.

Organisers were asked to remove their banners and flags on the grounds that they violated size restrictions meant to keep objects from obscuring others’ view.

Baseball banners
Banners and flags at Taichung baseball match. Photo: China Times.

The fans’ statement was the second time in the past month that a major international sporting even in Taiwan has become the scene of a pro-independence demonstration.

In August, spectators at the opening of basketball’s Jones Cup unfurled similar banners and the proposed national flag made by the World Taiwanese Congress, leading Super Basketball League coach Yen Hsing-su to decry the protest online.

On his Facebook page, Yen described political grandstanding at sports events as “sacred ground falling into enemy hands.”

Yen Hsing-su's commentary
Yen Hsing-su’s commentary. Photo: Yen Hsing su via Facebook.

Political commentator Cheng Hung-yi then shot back at Yen, asking: “If sports arenas are so pure and sacred, why did [President] Ma Ying-jeou tear down Taiwan’s national flags during the women’s Asian Cup soccer games?”

In 2001, police in Taipei, where Taiwan’s President Ma was then mayor, banned fans from waving Republic of China flags in the stands.

“Chinese Taipei is forced upon us by international politics,” Cheng conceded, “but there’s no need to humiliate ourselves at home.”

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has competed in international sporting events under the name “Chinese Taipei” since 1981 as a concession to Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the island.

Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others