Chinese whispers: World Cup organisers unravel Taiwan nationhood knot

June 16 – Organisers of the Qatar World Cup have ceded to a request from Taiwan to alter a ticketing system that had wrongly identified Taiwanese attending the tournament as hailing from China.

All World Cup ticket-holders must apply for a so-called Hayya card used to identify fans, which also serves as their Qatar visa.

But Taiwan’s government expressed outrage after discovering the online application system initially made no mention of the island.

In the initial version of the app, there was no option for fans from Taiwan, which has no diplomatic relations with Qatar, to register for their Hayya card. Taiwan was initially listed as ‘Taiwan, Province of China’. But it was later switched to ‘Taiwan’, complete with the Taiwanese flag.

Taiwan had asked the organisers to fix the issue immediately to “respect the rights and dignity of Taiwanese fans who plan to go and watch the games.”

“This unfriendly move by the organisers against Taiwan not only shifts the focus away from the game, but will also face international judgement and blame, which negatively affects the development of international competitions.”

Taiwanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters the quick concession by Qatar was a “positive development”, and expressed appreciation for the fast reaction by the organisers.

“We express our thanks and affirmation for this goodwill,” Ou said.

Neither China nor Taiwan, which competes under the name ‘Chinese Taipei’, qualified for this year’s World Cup.

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