Taiwan protests over China deporting two "cheerleaders"

Other News Materials 9 August 2008 22:12 (UTC +04:00)

Taiwan Saturday protested at China deporting what were described as two Taiwanese cheerleaders, urging Beijing to respect the rights of Taiwan fans at the Olympics, dpa reported.

"The two Taiwan cheerleaders flew to Beijing on valid China-issued travel documents to cheer for the Taiwan team. Chinese authorities have no reason to bar their entry. We express deep regret," the Sports Affairs Council said in a statement.

"We hope that during the Olympics Games, Chinese authorities respect spectators' rights," it added.

Lee Kun-lin and Yang Hui-ju, described as volunteer cheerleaders, paid their own way to fly to Beijing Saturday, holding China-issued travel permits, according to Taiwanese media reports. However, both had been blacklisted by China as trouble-makers.

Lee had already visited a number of countries and been photographed holding the Taiwanese flag and posting the pictures on the Internet to raise Taiwan's international profile.

Yang, the reports said, had a record as a social activist and Beijing feared she might unfurl Taiwan flag at the Olympics.

The two had been detained and questioned separately for one hour before being deported to Hong Kong Saturday afternoon. They flew back to Taiwan Saturday night.

The two were quoted as saying Chinese police confiscated their check-in luggage, although this did not contain anything illegal or Taiwan flags.

"I asked them why they detained me, they said it was an order from authorities," Lee was quoted as saying.

Yang said Chinese police searched her luggage and seized her cellphone and checked every text message. "I said they could not do that, and they said that in China, they could," Yang said.

Both Lee and Yang insisted they only wanted to cheer for the Taiwan team. Taiwan has sent about 80 athletes to compete in 15 sports.

China sees Taiwan as its breakaway province and bars Taiwan's formal title - Republic of China - and Taiwan's national flag at the venue of the Beijing Olympics.