TAIPEI, Taiwan (AFP) — The decision by Olympic organisers to remove Taiwan's national flag from a London display at the request of China has "hurt the feelings" of the people of Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou said today.
The flag was removed from a row hanging over Regent Street, one of London's busiest shopping areas, and replaced last week with that of Taiwan's Olympic committee.
Games organisers LOCOG said they had advised the Regent Street Association, which represents retailers and is in charge of the display, to remove the Taiwan flag after a complaint from the Chinese embassy.
Ma, who has pursued warmer relations with Beijing since coming to power in 2008, denounced the Chinese move as "unwise" and said politics should not interfere with sports.
"The removal of the national flag has... hurt the feelings of Taiwan's people," presidential spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi quoted Ma as saying during a press conference.
Titles and flags are sensitive issues between Taiwan and China, as Beijing still claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory despite their split in 1949 after a civil war.
Taiwan cannot display its national flag at international sporting events and other events as most countries formally recognise Beijing over Taipei.
Taiwan's Olympic committee flag has been used at Games since the 1980s when the International Olympic Committee ruled that the island could not compete under its formal name, the Republic of China.