Taiwanese fans likely to be listed as Chinese at Qatar World Cup

Football fans from Taiwan could be listed as being from China at the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, a senior Qatari official said Tuesday.

The issue came to light after the island complained its citizens could not register as Taiwanese.

The official later confirmed an identification card that doubles as an entry visa for Qatar could list Taiwan fans as being from China.

The issue is extremely sensitive for democratically-governed Taiwan, which bristles at China’s claims of sovereignty over it, and particularly its giant neighbor’s efforts to claim people from Taiwan as being Chinese nationals.

Qatar World Cup officials have repeatedly said all nationalities are welcome during the tournament. All ticketholders must apply for the Hayya card used to identify fans, which also serves as their entry visa for Qatar.

But the drop-down menu for the application does not mention Taiwan, or even the term “Chinese Taipei,” under which Taiwan competes in most international sporting events to avoid political problems.

A contact form for questions also does not allow the entry of the international telephone dialing code for Taiwan.

Taiwan’s representative office in Saudi Arabia, which oversees Qatar, has been trying to find out what was happening, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Joanne Ou.

“At present, we are still awaiting a response from the relevant body in Qatar,” she added.

Saeed al-Kuwari, director of the Hayya program for Qatar’s World Cup organizers, told reporters he “believed” the card system was likely to list “China” as the nationality of Taiwan passport holders.

“Or maybe we will supply something specially for them,” he added later, without elaborating.

Holders of Taiwanese passports should upload a copy of the document to the system without selecting a nationality from the drop-down menu, he said.

Organizers have programmed the optical character recognition system to collect the right data that is needed, I added.

“So, whatever nationality it will say, it’s fine. It’s going to be approved and he will enter the country based on this information.”

Taiwan has no diplomatic relations with Qatar, which, like most countries, only recognizes China’s government.

China, seeking to assert its sovereignty claims, has been stepping up pressure on countries and foreign companies to refer to Taiwan as part of China in official documents and on websites.

Taiwan has never played at the World Cup finals and crashed out in the second round of Asian nations qualifying for the 2022 tournament last year after losing all eight matches.

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