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Taiwan Le Mans 24 team told to remove national flag

A Taiwanese team in the Le Mans 24-hour race was told to remove the island’s national flag from its car before competing, local media and organisers said week. 

The team’s owner, Morris Chen, was asked by organisers to replace Taiwan’s flag with its Olympic version before the race started, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA). It came after China’s Tencent decided not to livestream the event because a “racing team from Taiwan, China, used the non-Olympic flag on their car hood”, CNA quoted a message posted on Chinese social network Weibo as saying.

International bodies that do not use Beijing’s preferred name risk angering the government and being turfed out of its lucrative market. 

Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary. 

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which organises the Le Mans race, said it “reserves the right to ask competitors to use the IOC [Olympic] banner in order not to open any political debate. In perfect agreement with the team concerned, the IOC flag was on the car.” 

AutoHub, the Taiwanese team competing at Le Mans, declined to comment.

Pictures the team posted on their Facebook account earlier in the week showed AutoHub’s Porsche with a small Taiwanese flag above the bonnet. By the time of the weekend race, it had been removed.

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen. She rejects its stance that the island is part of “one China”. 

Beijing has also put pressure on a growing number of international companies to refer to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei or “Taiwan, China”. Taiwan said earlier this month it had demanded a correction after Venice Film Festival organisers listed two films representing the island as “Chinese Taipei”, allegedly under pressure from Beijing. – AFP

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