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Taiwan: National dignity hurted in the Asian Games

By Portnoy Zheng

On November 17, leading Taiwanese Taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun got disqualified in the 2010 Asian Games during a match with a Vietnamese competitor for “wearing non-certified electronic foot equipment”, or “electronic socks”. The incident has stirred up a lot of emotions in Taiwan. It was turned into an online populist nationalistic outrage, with more than 27,000 angry Taiwanese Facebook users joining the online Anti-Rogue campaign.

The controversial referee

Engadget Chinese addresses the controversy from a technical perspective. He points out that the function of the “electronic socks” is to help the judge to record details of a successful attack in Taekwondo. Yang's “electronic socks” are an old version and may affect the recording. However, the judge could have issued a warning and asked her to change the equipment, instead of disqualifying her:

本屆亞運會規則從嚴,不符合 規定會馬上被判失去資格,與一般跆拳道比賽,選手護具、衣服、牙套出現問題,以罰分或警告處罰不同。

The rules in this Asian Game are harsh, they disqualify the athlete immediately if they made a mistake. In other competitions, if the Taekwondo athletes wear non-standard equipments, such as clothes, teeth braces or protection wears, the penalty is usually a warning or deduction of points.

A Dong collects all related video clips to show what had exactly happened during the match. Below are two video clips. The first one shows the match between Yang and the Vietnamese competitor. Arguably Yang is more skillful. The second one shows the emotional scene on how the judgment caught Yang by surprise. She kept asking what had happened and refused to leave the stage, with tears in her eyes.

To show their support for Yang Shu-chun, netizen very quickly launch an online sticker campaign:

Translation: Go go go! Yang, we are proud of you!

Su Li-wen (蘇麗文), another national female Taekwondo athlete who is considered the “light of Taiwan”, protests against the referee and believes that the event is a political framing:


As a national athlete for so many years, this is my first time seeing such outrageous and vicious framing!! Especially as all our points come from our top quality actions.
We have no reasons to cheat in a fight against a competitor who is not at the same level as we are, the World Top 3! This is political framing!
It unfairly damages the athlete's sports character! All the athlete's hard work is preparation for this moment. No matter win or fail, fight for Taiwan!
It is no big deal to die in the game, but we just can never accept such framing and unfair treatment!
I am madly angry!! We Taiwanese are not for bullying! Huan Hsien-uung proved that! (Note: Huang is another female Taekwondo athlete who won Gold medal after the row)
In the remaining three days, we will use all our strength to revenge for all the bullying and humiliation.
Just wait and see, we Taiwanese will not be easily humiliated!

Who to blame?

The controversy has taken a political turn and the Sports Affairs Council of Taiwan has become a target of online criticism[zht]. Many angry Facebook users criticize the Council for not standing firmly and fighting back against the disqualification:


We cannot but ask, when such an unfair judgment caught a majority of Taiwanese by surprise, why can the Taiwanese government be so rational? Of course we are not asking the government to fight with the Chinese government or boycott the Asian Games. But at least the Taiwanese government should appear tough…

The emotion has induced a number of racial remarks against the Korean Filippino referee and mainland Chinese. In mainland China, there are also some debates about the incident. Tianya user Big sparrow points out that other athletes from mainland China and East Timor also got disqualified in the Taekwondo Game. Another Tianya user 5218734 says:

棒子+菲律宾猴子 双重国籍的裁判整的事,你不去骂裁判,反而怪到中国头上了,还说中国阴谋论,脑残吧。。。中国亚运会拿100多个金牌分分秒秒的事,还用的着干这事? 弯弯媒体反正知道,只要是中国“打压”台湾的新闻,就等于升职+奖金大大地,让我们拭目以待,看看弯弯媒体会找到几条 “打压“的证据,只要自己输了就是老共的阴谋, 厌倦了弯弯天天喊被打压的悲情牌, 天天吵吵闹闹的, 自己作弊也说被打压, 比赛前服用兴奋剂没有查出来,比赛完后,被查出你服用兴奋剂,然后处罚你就是打压???

That Korean Filipino referee with dual nationality made the decision… instead of blaming the referee, you blame China, and accuse China of conspiracy, this is idiotic…China has won more than 100 gold medals, we are winning every second and every minute, why do we need to cheat? Taiwanese media professionals know that as long as they report news about China “suppressing” Taiwan, they can get promotions and huge bonuses. Let us see how much evidence Taiwanese media will find out about the “repression”. When Taiwan loses, they say that it is the conspiracy of the communists. I just got tired of Taiwanese media shouting “repression” everyday. They are shouting and wrangling all the time, even when Taiwanese cheated, they still said they were being repressed. You are caught after the game for doping, but not before. If you got punished for this, do you still call that a repression???

Populist politics

Very often, social media like Facebook and Plurk have become platforms for accelerating irrational hatred and nationalism in Taiwan, especially during international games. The upcoming mayoral election and the manipulations along with it also provide a lot of firewood to let all those online campaigns burn.

In fact, it is not the first time that rage against referee over controversial game results has appeared during international sports competition. Cheng Da-wei (鄭大為), an experienced and world-famous Taiwanese Taekwondo coach, referee and ex-athlete, faced fierce protests and scolding over a controversial ruling. In the 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong, he decided that the Korean competitor won without a foul over a controversial hit at the neck of the Taiwanese competitor. Cheng's family was harassed by raging people for “not supporting our own man” and his Korean wife left him because she could not stand the harassment anymore. Under great populist pressure, Cheng was deprived of his qualification as coach by the National Taekwondo Association for three years. Even though there was an online petition aiming to rehabilitate Cheng's reputation and job[zht] because his referee was reasonable and fair, not many people really cared.

Orbisx finds such sports related populist nationalism hypocritical:


Sometimes Taiwanese people really are hypocrite. Our nation and national dignity are trampled all the time, our national identity is a mess and most of the time people don't seem to care. But when an athlete was bullied, people suddenly think that it is like the death of our country. This is just concentrating on the symptoms while neglecting the causes behind.

Some netizens, such as PipperL, are worried that the interplay between emotions in the social media and the mainstream media may amplify such irrational hatred. Is this going to be something that netizens can fix on themselves? Or will populist politics in social networking sites lead to further tribalization? We will see.

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