TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed thanks on Thursday after organisers of the World Cup in Qatar removed a reference to China for Taiwanese visitors applying for an identification card that doubles as an entry visa.
All World Cup ticketholders must apply for the Hayya card used to identify fans, which also serves as their Qatar visa, but Taiwan’s government expressed concern after discovering the online application system made no mention of the island.
It was subsequently listed as, “Taiwan, Province of China”, terminology that equally angers Taiwan’s government and many of its people.
However, late on Wednesday the system began listing the island simply as “Taiwan”, complete with the Taiwanese flag.
It marks a rare victory for Taiwan, whose government and many of its people bristle at China’s sovereignty claims.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters this was a “positive development”, and expressed appreciation for the fast reaction by the organisers.
“We express our thanks and affirmation for this goodwill,” Ou added.
The World Cup organisers have yet to comment on the change.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “Taiwan is part of China,” when asked about the change, adding that the one-China principle was a “basic norm” of international relations.
“We believe that the relevant parties will respect the one-China principle and resolve this matter in accordance with the consistent methods for international sporting competitions,” he told reporters at a regular briefing.
Taiwan competes at most international sporting competitions like the Olympics as “Chinese Taipei” to avoid political problems. It has not qualified for the Qatar World Cup, but soccer is popular in Taiwan.
Taiwan has never played at the World Cup finals and crashed out in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 tournament last year after losing all eight matches.
Taiwan has no diplomatic relations with Qatar, which, like most countries, only recognises China’s government.
China, seeking to assert its sovereignty claims, has stepped up pressure for countries and foreign companies to refer to Taiwan as part of China in official documents and on websites, with phrasing such as “Taiwan, Province of China”, or “Taiwan, China”.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Anddrew Mills in Doha and Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Clarence Fernandez)