China’s rugby union team have pulled out of a landmark tournament in Taiwan due to visa problems, sporting officials said yesterday, although they denied any political reasons were behind the withdrawal.
“There was lots of paperwork [for the visas] and we needed to hand in lots of material for each member of the team,” said an official with the China Rugby Association surnamed Zhang.
“In the end there were some problems with the material we handed in so we had to pull out,” he said.
The tournament, to take place in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan this week, was meant to see China line up against Taiwan, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
It is part of the Asian Five Nations series, involving 25 teams from across the region.
The South China Morning Post reported yesterday that China may have pulled out because it was concerned about protests by nationalist Taiwanese, and that the competition was described as a “nations” tournament.
But Zhang insisted politics had no influence on the team’s withdrawal.
“It is not that,” he said when asked about the alleged political concerns.
Recent visits by two Chinese envoys to Taiwan were met by protests.
China’s top Taiwan negotiator, Chen Yunlin, made history when he visited Taiwan last week, but protests against his visit ended in clashes between police and demonstrators that left more than 110 people injured.
Last month, his deputy Zhang Mingqing — in Taiwan to prepare for Chen’s visit — was jostled by independence activists in Tainan and fell to the ground.
Taiwanese rugby officials said that China’s visas had been approved on Oct. 25, so the problems lay with the Chinese side.
“They apologized to us saying they could not get their visas processed,” said Pian Ying-hui, from the Chinese Taipei Rugby Football Union.
This is what happens when you mix Politics & Sports – Ed