Controversy hit the 11th Asian 18U Baseball Championship held in Taichung on Aug. 31 after staff at the stadium took action against fans who displayed pro-Taiwan political slogans.

Taiwan’s team was participating under the name “Chinese Taipei,” the nation’s official designation in international sports events. During Taiwan’s game against Japan, a group of college students held up a banner saying “Taiwan is just Taiwan, Taiwan is not Chinese Taipei” in the bleachers behind home base. Soon after it went up, the banner was ripped down and the students were dispersed by staff from the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA).

The students are filing lawsuits against the CTBA for what they argue constituted infringement on their freedom of speech.

Jheng Yi-ying (鄭懿瀛), the lawyer appointed by the students, said a staff member yelled at Yang Jheng-syun (楊政勳), one of the students who was holding up the banner, and asked them to leave the stadium while tearing up the banner.

The crowd went wild and criticized the staff member for his act. Netizens also expressed their anger in a PTT Bulletin Board post.

Lin Chung-cheng (林宗成), secretary-general of the CTBA, said the CTBA has decided recently to set up an area at the entrance for people to post their political opinions. However, any political slogans or banners should not be shown in the baseball stadium.

Lin Jhe-hong (林哲宏), deputy director of the Sports Administration, said that since Taiwan is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), all regulations about the games should be respected, including banning political slogans. Lin nevertheless promised to protect people’s rights and reach a consensus with the CTBA to deal with similar situations in future, noting that participating in the game under the name “Chinese Taipei” is “a last resort.”

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Jhang-liao Wan-jian (張廖萬堅) said recently in a press conference that he used to lead a team to the U.S. and hold up Taiwan’s national flag in stadiums there. When asked if this was against the law, the staff told him “Who cares?” which shows that the CTBA was just overreacting, the legislator said.

Jhuo Guan-ting (卓冠廷), director-general of the Taichung City Information Bureau, said the city understands the CTBA's desire to follow the law, but that citizens’ rights to liberty should not be infringed upon and that the Association should apologize and make up for the matter.

Jhuo said that people’s freedom of speech will be respected during the 1st East Asian Youth Games, which will be held in Taichung in 2019.

Edited by J. Michael Cole