Taiwan team told to remove flag before Le Mans race

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A Taiwanese team competing in the Le Mans 24-hour race said it was told to remove the island's national flag from its car

A Taiwanese team taking part in the Le Mans 24-hour race was told to remove the island's national flag from its car before competing, local media and organisers said Monday.

The team's owner Morris Chen received a request from organisers to replace Taiwan's flag with its Olympic version before the race started, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA).

It came after China's Tencent decided not to livestream the event because a "racing team from Taiwan, China used the non-Olympic flag on their car hood", CNA quoted a message posted on Chinese social network Weibo as saying.

Authoritarian Beijing views democratic Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

It baulks at any use of Taiwan or its official title the Republic of China on the world stage lest it lends the island international legitimacy.

As a result, Taiwan must often compete under the name "Chinese Taipei" and is not allowed to use its flag or national anthem at the Olympics and other sporting events.

International bodies that do not use Beijing's preferred name risk angering the government and being turfed out of its huge, lucrative market.

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest, which organises the Le Mans race, said it "reserves the right to ask competitors to use the IOC (Olympic) banner in order not to open any political debate".

"In perfect agreement with the team concerned, the IOC flag was on the car," the club told AFP in a statement.

AutoHub, the Taiwanese team competing at Le Mans, declined to comment.

Pictures the team posted on their Facebook account earlier in the week showed AutoHub's Porsche with a small Taiwanese flag above the bonnet.

By the time of the weekend race, it had been removed.

Beijing has ramped up diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen as she rejects its stance that the island is part of "one China".

It has also pressured a growing number of international companies to refer to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei or "Taiwan, China" in recent years.

Taiwan said earlier this month it had demanded a correction after Venice Film Festival organisers listed two films representing the island as being from "Chinese Taipei", allegedly under pressure from Beijing.

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