TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou stepped into the politically-charged dispute over a disqualified taekwondo fighter on Thursday, demanding event organisers at China’s Asian Games re-examine her case and offer a better explanation.
Former Asian champion Yang Shu-chun was disqualified in sensational circumstances on Wednesday, when officials stopped her 49-kg bout against a Vietnamese competitor and disqualified her for wearing unauthorised sensors in her footwear.
“Taiwan’s public cannot accept this,” presidential office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang said.
“The president is asking the cabinet and the sports commission to stick up for her rights. We hope they can re-evaluate the case and offer better reasoning.”
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when U.S.-backed Kuomintang forces fled there after defeat by Mao Zedong’s Communists in the civil war. China has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, if force by necessary.
Ma’s demand followed angry protests from Taiwan’s team officials and a sit-down protest by the tearful Yang, who refused the leave the arena.
Taekwondo fighters at elite competitions have worn sensors in their footgear for a number of years to help judges ascertain the successful scoring of points, but tournament officials decided Yang had worn extra unauthorised sensors at the back of her heels.
Yang and her team denied the charge and said the sensors had been approved before the competition.
One of her coaches, Liu Tsung-ta, said tournament officials had excluded them from a technical meeting after the team protested the decision and that they had said nothing to them since.
“It was just the referees who attended the meeting, we were excluded,” Liu told Reuters. “Neither did they ask us to explain. They haven’t made any contact with us ever since. They just disqualified us.”
The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) remained adamant about the fairness of the decision, saying Yang had cheated and that the she and her coach would face further sanctions.
“Is this fair? No. Is this acceptable? No,” said WTF general secretary Yang Jin Suk. “It is purely manipulating of behaviour, intentional cheating. That’s why the individual was disqualified.”
A red-eyed Yang Shu-chun, who helped her team mates warm up at the taekwondo venue on Thursday, said she had not slept, but declined to comment further.
Some of her outraged fans were more vocal.
“Yang (Shu-chun) was our medal hope. It’s so unfair!” said Wu Mei-yueh, a 32-year-old accountant in Guangzhou for the Games.
Additional reporting by Phyllis Xu; Editing by Ed Osmond, To comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org