TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's gay rights activists on Monday (July 23) accused China of pressuring organisers of the Gay Games to bar the island's national flag at next month's competition in Paris as ties with Beijing worsen.
China considers Taiwan as part of its territory and is particularly sensitive to the self-ruled island's use of names, emblems and flags at international events.
These sensitivities - backed up by Beijing's clout on the world stage - mean Taiwan is forced to compete as "Chinese Taipei" at the Olympics and a host of other international sports competitions.
The Federation of Gay Games (FGG) had looked as if it would buck this trend when it gave its blessing for Taiwanese competitors to compete under the name "Taiwan" and use the national flag, according to Taiwanese activists.
But Mr Yang Chih-chun, president of the Taiwan Gay Sports and Gay Development Movement Association, said they were notified by the FGG last week that the French government had "expressed concerns" over displaying the Taiwanese flag.
"Our logical conclusion is that China protests to the French government or otherwise this would not have happened," Mr Yang told AFP.
The association added that it is also negotiating with FGG over its listing as "Taiwan (Chinese Taipei)" on the Paris games website rather than just "Taiwan" - the name it used when filling out registration form.
"We hope the FGG can resist pressure," said Mr Yang.
Relations between Taipei and Beijing have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office two years ago, as her government refuses to recognise that the island is part of "one China".
China has cut off official communication with Ms Tsai's government while stepping up military and diplomatic pressure on the island.
Under pressure from Beijing, a growing number of international airlines and companies recently changed their website classifications of Taiwan to "Taiwan, China" or "Chinese Taipei".
The Gay Games sporting and cultural festival was founded in 1982, and organisers estimate up to 10,000 people will take part in this year's event.
The 28-member Taiwanese delegation led by prominent gay rights campaigner Chi Chia-wei will leave for Paris on Aug 2 for the competition between Aug 4 and 12.
Mr Chi said the Paris games could be "an unprecedented rare opportunity" for Taiwan to compete as Taiwan and use its national flag as such arrangements would be impossible in the next tournament due to be held in Hong Kong.
"We will fight till the last moment to use our national flag at the Gay Games," he said.