Taiwan is protesting against a move by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and budget carrier Scoot to name the island as part of China on their websites, in an apparent switch to comply with Beijing’s recent demand to foreign airlines.
China’s aviation regulator in April gave dozens of airlines a May 25 deadline to remove references on their websites and in other material that suggest Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are countries independent of China.
Beijing later extended the deadline to late June.
While the White House has described the order as “Orwellian nonsense” and Taiwan has repeatedly condemned it as “bullying”, several airlines have already made the change.
They include Air Canada, Air France, Germany’s Lufthansa, British Airways, Emirates of the United Arab Emirates, and Australia’s Qantas Airways.
SIA and Scoot have likewise changed Taiwan’s name on their websites to “Taiwan, China”, prompting Taiwan to order its representative office in Singapore to lodge “stern representations” with the airlines, Central News Agency reported late on Tuesday (June 12).
It quoted foreign affairs ministry spokesman Lee Hsien-chang as saying that Taiwan would ask the companies to “rectify the inappropriate name as soon as possible”.
Contacted by The Straits Times, SIA said it amended its website on June 11 in accordance with the Chinese regulator’s request.
“As you know, we had received a formal letter from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, and the changes were made in response to the request,” a spokesman said.
ST is also seeking a comment from the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore.
Relations between Taiwan and China, which have been governed separately since 1949 after a civil war, have deteriorated under Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party advocates eventual independence from the mainland.
Ms Tsai on Wednesday referred to the pressure China has exerted over international airlines to name Taiwan as part of its territory.
In a meeting at the presidential office in Taipei with Mr James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Ms Tsai said Washington’s opposition to China’s airline gambit assures the Taiwanese people they have the support of the United States.
AIT is the US’ de facto embassy in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties between the two sides.
Last week, the Financial Times said, citing five people familiar with the issue, that US officials had asked American airlines, including United, American Airlines, and Delta, not to comply with China’s demand to write “Taiwan, China” instead of “Taiwan” on their websites and maps.
As of Wednesday, the three US carriers have not made the switch on their websites.
The US recognises Beijing as the legitimate government of all of China, but has longstanding ties with Taiwan and is bound by its Taiwan Relations Act to protect the island.
Under President Donald Trump, the US has been more vocal about maintaining official and civil exchanges with Taiwan while not rocking the boat too much to avoid Beijing’s ire.
Washington sent only a relatively low ranking official from the State Department to the unveiling of the AIT new complex in Taipei on Tuesday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KARAMJIT KAUR
Source : StraitsTimes