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Olympics

Taiwanese to vote on ditching 'Chinese Taipei' name at Olympics

Swimming - 2018 Asian Games - Mixed 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final Jakarta, Indonesia - August 22, 2018 Silver medalists of team Japan, gold meadlists of team China and bronze medalists of team South Korea during the medals ceremony
Swimming - 2018 Asian Games - Mixed 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final Jakarta, Indonesia - August 22, 2018 Silver medalists of team Japan, gold meadlists of team China and bronze medalists of team South Korea during the medals ceremony REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Taiwanese campaigners Monday submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures for a referendum to compete as "Taiwan" and not "Chinese Taipei" in the next Olympics. China still claims sovereignty over the island, which is de facto independent, and is sensitive to the its use of names.

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The campaign for a referendum to scrap the “Chinese Taipei” label before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics collected more than 520,000 signatures Monday, many more than the 280,000 required for a referendum to take place.

If vetted and approved by the Central Election Commission, the vote will be held to coincide with local elections on 24 November.

"I hope the international community will continue to care about Taiwan's situation so we can be treated fairly," said athlete Chi Cheng, Taiwan's first female Olympic medallist who co-led the campaign.

Since 1949 Taiwanese athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics but not use their own name, owing to a political compromise with China.

That compromise has come under pressure from the election of President Tsai Ying-wen.

"I hope all Taiwanese can come out [to vote] on 24 November to let Taiwan be Taiwan," added Huang Kuo-chang, chairman of the independence-leaning New Power Party, who supports the referendum.

The name-change campaign has already irked China, with Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office previously warning that Taiwan would "swallow its own bitter fruit" and sacrifice its athletes' chances to compete in international games.

For the proposal to be accepted, a simple majority is insufficient if turnout is low.

At least 25 percent of Taiwan's 19 million eligible voters must vote yes, the results would then have to be ratified by parliament.

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