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Beauty contestant barred over ‘Taiwan’ sash

A beauty contestant from Taiwan has been suspended from an international pageant in Austria after Beijing objected to the sash she was wearing, the woman and the government in Taipei said.

Beauty contestant barred over 'Taiwan' sash
Ting Wen-yin in Vienna. Photo: Laura Dang/Nextshark

Ting Wen-yin was kept out of the Miss Earth contest in Austria because she refused to compete for “Chinese Taipei” – the name by which Beijing insists the self-ruled island should be known.

Ting, 22, said pageant organisers had initially given her a “Taiwan ROC” sash – short for “Republic of China”, the territory's preferred name – but later said there had been a mistake.

When she declined to wear the replacement ribbon, she was told to “just leave” and barred from the stage over the weekend.

“It seems some department from China had reported it, then the organisers told me to replace it with Chinese Taipei at the evening event,” Ting wrote on Facebook.

Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after a civil war, and despite more than six decades of self-rule, Beijing insists the island is a renegade province awaiting reunification.

Both governments insist they are the legitimate rulers of greater China.

Taiwan participates in international events as Chinese Taipei, the name of its capital, instead of Republic of China (ROC) to skirt mainland sensitiveness.

Ting said her stance stemmed from not wanting her home to be “humiliated”, at a time when Taiwanese are growing wary of expanding Chinese influence.

“On the map, Taiwan is Taiwan. All the nations enter using their country names, while we use the name of a city,” said Ting.

Taiwanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang said in a statement the “Chinese Taipei” sash had been replaced because of pressure from China.

The Miss Earth pageant – whose finals are on December 5 – bills itself as an event promoting environmental awareness, and says the winner serves as an ambassador for campaigns.

The furore comes just weeks after a historic summit between Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Singapore, the first meeting between leaders since the 1949 split.

It also comes after Canada's Chinese-born Miss World contestant claimed she was being denied a visa to compete in this year's finals in China because of her criticism of Beijing's human rights record.

TOURISM

In Austria, Vienna’s horse-drawn carriages feel the heat

As much of Europe stifles under record high temperatures, Vienna's "fiaker" horse carriage drivers fear for their future with animal rights activists turning up the heat.

In Austria, Vienna's horse-drawn carriages feel the heat

At the stables of one of the Austrian capital’s leading fiaker businesses, driver Marco Pollandt explains how the animals are coping with increasingly hot weather and how much time off they enjoy.

Rights activists want horses to stop work as soon as temperatures hit 30C (86F) and not 35C as under current rules — a demand that fiaker or carriage drivers say will destroy their centuries-old profession.

“We can all live with the 35C but going down more is actually not good for the horses, and we also have to discuss the economic results of this,” Pollandt tells AFP.

The 28-year-old Viennese says horses trained to pull carriages need the exercise, while their caretakers need the income.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Will Austria ban horse-drawn carriages?

On hot days, fiaker drivers ensure the horses drink enough, while the places where they wait for customers are shady in the afternoon.

“The climate is changing and it’s getting more and more hot,” Pollandt says.

“And of course it makes a difference if we have seven days a year that we are not allowed to ride or if we have 30 days a year we are not allowed to ride.”

High demand

Pollandt — who used to work in gastronomy and started to offer dining in a fiaker five years ago — has been running a website to inform people about the horses and the carriage driving profession. He also runs stable tours offering a glimpse behind the scenes. 

A coachman of horse driven carriages (Fiakers) prepares his horse at the stables of a leading fiaker business prior leaving stables for daily tourist tours in Vienna, Austria, on July 13, 2022.(Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Three hundred horses still pull carriages through Vienna, past the town hall and other tourist sites, generating thousands of jobs, he notes.

“I realised no one actually explains to people how everything works,” says Pollandt pointing to strict regulations and regular veterinary checkups to keep the horses fit.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Hurt by Covid lockdowns and travel curbs since 2020, business has picked up again swiftly this year.

But activists say the animals suffer in the big city especially in scorching temperatures.

“This work is clearly linked to animal suffering. The horses are sometimes in the sun at 34.5C and working.”

Buckets of water, rest in the shade and caring coachmen but no summer break for the famous cabs of Vienna, despite the heat wave and the pressure of animal defenders. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

“They are exposed to noise, exhaust fumes, traffic and of course stress,” says David Fenzl of the Association against Animal Factories.

In June, city officials considered the demands to enforce stricter regulations, but in the end decided to delay lowering the temperatures under which horses are not allowed to work, pending a study to be carried out next year.

READ ALSO: Austria bans ‘senseless’ killing of chicks with new animal welfare rules

So for now, fiakers can ride on — unless temperatures exceed 35C, as predicted later this week.

Scientists say heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

Britain and France went on unprecedented heatwave alerts this week as southwest Europe wilted and ferocious wildfires devoured more forests.

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