DOHA/TAIPEI: An identity card that doubles as an entry visa to the World Cup in Qatar is likely to list Taiwanese fans as coming from China, a senior Qatari official said Tuesday (June 14), after the island complained that its citizens were unable to register as Taiwanese.
The issue is extremely sensitive to democratically ruled Taiwan, which is buzzing with China’s claims to sovereignty over the country, and especially its giant neighbor’s attempts to claim people from Taiwan as Chinese citizens.
Qatar World Cup officials have repeatedly said all nationalities are welcome at the tournament. All ticket holders must apply for the Hayya card used to identify fans, which also serves as their entry visa to Qatar.
But the drop-down menu for the application does not mention Taiwan, or even the term “Chinese Taipei”, under which Taiwan participates in most international sports events to avoid political problems.
A contact form for inquiries also does not allow entering the international phone code for Taiwan.
Taiwan’s representative office in Saudi Arabia, which oversees Qatar, has been trying to find out what was going on, said Joanne Ou, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry.
“We are currently waiting for a response from the competent authority in Qatar,” she added.
Saeed Al-Kuwari, director of the Hayya program for the Qatar World Cup organizers, told reporters he “believed” the card system would likely list “China” as the nationality of Taiwanese passport holders.
“Or maybe we’ll provide something special for them,” he added later, without elaborating.
Holders of Taiwanese passports must 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 appropriate data it needs, he added.
“So whatever nationality it will say, it’s fine. It will 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 the Chinese government.
China, seeking to assert its sovereignty claims, has stepped up pressure on countries and foreign companies to refer to Taiwan as part of China in official documents and on websites.
Taiwan has never made it to the World Cup final, crashing last year in the second round of Asian nations qualifying for the 2022 tournament after losing all eight matches.