Saturday, August 13, 2022

The InterPride thing is straight-up weird -- and InterPride might be lying

I want to be very clear about something: I will always support Taiwan in taking a principled stand on any issue. Whatever cost people in Taiwan deem worth bearing to maintain their national dignity, I'm with them. No questions asked, no exceptions.

There are costs for sticking with one's principles -- all of which are fabricated by the CCP to harm Taiwan; they don't arise naturally. For this reason, I tend to think it's better to take a principled stand than cave in and accept things like "Chinese Taipei", "Made in Taiwan, China" or any naming convention that calls Taiwan a "province". 

Whatever consequence the CCP has cooked up in their "How To Be Jackholes To Taiwan" lab, generally, I think it's better not to bow and scrape to their bratty demands.

With this in mind, I have to say: I find the whole InterPride thing just a little weird.

For those who don't know the story, here is the core of WorldPride Taiwan 2025 committee's statement.

I've omitted some introductory and concluding paragraphs for brevity and 
highlighted points that will come up later; you can skip ahead if you've read it already.

When discussing and negotiating the event contract’s terms and conditions, the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee (consisting of Taiwan Pride and Kaohsiung Pride) was unable to reach a consensus with InterPride, the event licensor. There were major discrepancies between our stances on the event’s naming, understandings of Taiwan’s culture, and expectations of what a WorldPride event should look like. 

In the back-and-forth discussions, InterPride repetitively raised their concerns and doubts about whether Taiwan has the capacity, economic and otherwise, to host an international event like WorldPride. This is despite our team consisting of highly competent Pride organizers who have successfully organized some of the largest Pride events in Asia. Although we have presented past data and relevant statistics to prove our track record, we were still unable to convince InterPride. However hard we have tried to cooperate, our efforts did not result in an equal and trusting working partnership with the event licensor. 

The final straw that led the negotiation to a deadlock was the abrupt notice from InterPride, requiring the name of the event to change from “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” to “WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025”. This is despite the fact that the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025'' was used throughout the entire bidding process: From the bid application and the bid proposal evaluation to the voting process and the winner announcement back in 2021.

We had made it clear to InterPride that there are some significant reasons why we insist on using the name "WorldPride Taiwan 2025". First, the name "Taiwan Pride" is of symbolic significance to the Taiwanese LGBTIQ+ community as it has been used for Taiwan’s first and still ongoing Pride parade since the first edition in 2003. It was not named after the city but the nation as a whole. Second, WorldPride Taiwan 2025 was planned to connect several Pride events and activities across Taiwan, with many cities, in addition to Kaohsiung, participating.

After the winner announcement, upon reading InterPride’s congratulatory letter which mistakenly named Taiwan as a region instead of a country, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) helped organize a tripartite meeting with InterPride and KH Pride on November 16 2021. In the meeting, the three parties (MOFA, InterPride, KH Pride) agreed on using “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” as the name for all the sequential events and activities. However, during the recent contract negotiation, InterPride suddenly made it a requirement that WorldPride 2025 can only be named after the host city rather than the country (“WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025” instead of “WorldPride Taiwan 2025”). This unexpected requirement essentially reneges on the previously made agreement.

In the face of many uncertainties such as InterPride’s inconsistent attitude toward the event naming and doubts about our team and the Taiwan market, we have to make the painful decision to terminate the project of hosting WorldPride 2025 in order to strive for the best interest of the LGBTIQ+ community in Taiwan.

Certainly, I support Taiwan in standing up for itself. So when InterPride announced unexpectedly that WorldPride 2025 would have to be called WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025 instead of WorldPride Taiwan 2025, I supported the committee in terminating the event. After all, if you can't call a country a country or an event by the name of the country it's in, Taiwan doesn't need you and deserves better. 

It seems (or seemed) rather obvious that at some point in the middle of event planning, InterPride got a call from Beijing insisting that "Taiwan" not be used. 

That said, I can't help but notice that the other WorldPride events do indeed lead with the city name, not the country name. Their Twitter typically tags city pride organizations. WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025 would have been more in line with that convention than WorldPride Taiwan, even if events were planned across the country.

But then, if that was always the way these events were named, why agree to "WorldPride Taiwan 2025" and then suddenly insist it can't be used? Why not clarify that city names are their policy and make no statement about nationhood at the outset? They literally had a whole meeting about this in 2021!

Basically, WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025 or WorldPride Kaohsiung Taiwan might make more sense within their naming conventions, but why say that now

It's especially weird as the naming issue was specifically discussed earlier in the process. There was no misunderstanding or incorrect assumption: the Taiwanese coordinators asked explicitly for the event to reference Taiwan, with strong reasons given for the choice of name, and InterPride explicitly agreed. InterPride's own statement elides this:

Here's the weirdest thing about this statement. According to the Taiwan organizers, "WorldPride Kaohsiung Taiwan 2025" was never offered as an option. From CNA:

後續InterPride也在今年7月26日的信件中指出,經過理監事投票決議通過,活動名稱只能使用WorldPride Kaohsiung或Kaohsiung WorldPride,並沒有Taiwan在裡面,因此InterPride的留言完全不符合事實,「從來沒有給過我們這個選項」。

My translation:

In a follow-up, InterPride also pointed out in a letter dated July 26th of this year that after a vote by the directors and supervisors, the event name can only be WorldPride Kaohsiung or Kaohsiung WorldPride, with no "Taiwan", meaning InterPride's message is counterfactual. 
"[They] never gave us this option." [According to the interviewee]. 

This is very weird. Why would InterPride lie about this? If they're not lying, why would the interviewee in CNA say they were?

There's no mention of the 2021 meeting in the statement, either: just a reference to a compromise they say they offered (but apparently didn't). 

Neither is there a mention of previously referring to Taiwan as a "region" rather than a country.

The statement also ignores other issues brought up by the WorldPride Taiwan 2025 preparation committee: that they felt their competency to host the event was being questioned, that the partnership was not a trusting one, and that their attempts to prove they had the track record to host the event smoothly were ignored. All InterPride said on that matter was that they were working with the Taiwanese side "to ensure they would deliver the event they promised to our members", which to me sounds like a confirmation that they didn't trust Taiwan to pull it off. 

I don't know what went on behind the scenes here, what the concerns were or why InterPride would act this way. Most Pride events in Taiwan are fantastic, but there have been questionable decisions in the past. For instance, at the past pre-pandemic Pride I attended, the weird route and shunting of the event to the side of the road caused significant backups and delays; I spent nearly 40 minutes at an intersection near Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, got so overheated that I began puking somewhere around Zhongxiao Dunhua, and promptly went home. I don't know if this poor planning was a Pride issue or a Taipei City government issue; maybe it was both.

However, if InterPride does not trust the host country of the largest Pride in Asia to coordinate their event, especially when their statement ignores other relevant details, it seems to me that InterPride's own judgement might be what's questionable here. I may have had a single bad experience, but Pride and other large events in Taiwan generally run smoothly. So what was really going on here?

The InterPride website does name countries in the text blurbs for these events (Rome, Italy, for example, or Sydney, Australia. Only Jerusalem doesn't get a country, for reasons we can all guess at). Was that the problem? And if the only real issue is that they usually use city names, why call Taiwan a "region" when the collaboration was announced? Why not just name the country, like everywhere else? 

Basically, there's a lot going on here. It's absolutely baffling. But, at the end of it all, the inconsistencies and elisions from InterPride seem more problematic and questionable than those from the Taiwan committee. The implication that InterPride was treating the Taiwanese committee like a bunch of incompetents especially rankles.

It's possible but very unlikely that the Taiwan side wasn't managing things well,  and yet the condescending "oh, I'm not sure you can pull it off, sweeties" feels like the sort of unfounded treatment of Taiwan by the West that should be familiar to anyone following international media discourse on Taiwan. Taiwan's economy is consistently treated like it's not advanced (it is) or that it's worse than China's (it's not, and that's even if China's reported economic data can be believed, which it probably can't.) Taiwan is treated like it can't handle the international stage (it can) or doesn't have the will to defend itself (it does). 

That said, the Taiwan committee's reasoning makes sense. From the CNA article above:


My translation:

A-Gu [the interviewee] said, "since applying for WorldPride, InterPride has repeatedly misnamed [Taiwan] as Taiwan Province, Taiwan region, etc. This has happened in statements, the 'country' section of the website, in the data review, during tripartite meetings -- the country's name was incorrectly changed. This repeated issue may lead to even greater problems in the future after signing [an agreement], which is the main reason why the preparatory committee decided to stop the event.”

In other words, InterPride kept screwing up, and the Taiwan WorldPride committee realized they were going to keep misnaming Taiwan, possibly to even worse effect. If this had happened -- let's say WorldPride was almost underway and couldn't be canceled -- it would make the committee look extremely bad and also be unacceptable and disrespectful to Taiwan. After all, they knew InterPride was repeatedly misnaming the country! So, they pulled the plug.

This makes sense. InterPride's stance doesn't.

Even in reporting of this issue, AFP copy across multiple media outlets calls Taiwan an 'island', not a country, and leads with China's claims. Even when reporting on Taiwan wanting respect and the use of its own damn name, international media can't seem to get it right. (Al Jazeera's report is slightly better, but not by much.)

I'm not even Taiwanese, and I'm absolutely sick of it! 

In fact, looking at previous WorldPride events, the only non-Western city I see on that list is Jerusalem. Every other location was or will be in a Western country -- North America, Europe or Australia. This is one of the first times, then, that WorldPride has worked with non-Western coordinators. Could there have been some cultural miscommunication or even insensitivity? 

I honestly don't know. I don't want to get into "I'm just asking questions" mode like some right-wing media jackass, but there really are a lot of questions to be asked. The whole thing, from calling Taiwan a "region", to agreeing to "Taiwan" at a meeting, to suddenly reneging on that with a unilateral "compromise", then pulling a *shocked Pikachu face* when Taiwan pulled the plug -- it's just weird. I have so many questions, and most of them are for InterPride. And most revolve around whose calls they've been taking.

I can't say definitively what happened, but if I'm going to pick a side on this, then I'd pick Taiwan. Taiwan wanted this event so much that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stepped in after InterPride's first gaffe calling Taiwan a "region". If MoFA gets involved, you know it matters to the organizers. They wouldn't cancel that on a whim, or single mistake.

The Taiwan committee's explanation for pulling the plug makes sense. If this were really about the tradition of naming WorldPride events after cities -- essentially a branding dispute -- InterPride wouldn't have mislabeled Taiwan in other ways, waited until after a trilateral meeting on the issue, agreed to an alternative, and then lied about a compromise they never offered. It's not just audacity, it's mendacity. Taiwan saw that, and said "no thanks". And they would know: this sort of nomenclature disrespect happens all the time. Just look at any airline website! 

If the local committee felt that this problem would keep occurring and Taiwan would keep being disrespected by InterPride, I believe them.

It wouldn't make sense for the Taiwan side to have called it off for the wrong reasons, so I'm going to trust that they did it for the right ones. 

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