Thu, Jul 26, 2018 - Page 1 News List

US airlines change Taiwan references

CITY NAMES:The Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanked the firms for their reluctance, while the US Department of State reiterated its stance against Beijing’s pressure

By Nadia Tsao and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON, with staff writer

US Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks at a press briefing in Washington yesterday, saying that the US is opposed to China’s demand that US airlines change how they refer to Taiwan.

Photo: Nadia Tsao, Taipei Times

Three major US airlines have changed their Web sites to refer to Taiwan only by city names, in response to Beijing’s demand that the changes be made by yesterday.

Reuters on Tuesday reported that the three major US carriers — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — had agreed to meet China’s request to change the way they refer to Taiwan online.

An unnamed US official was quoted as saying that the US Department of State had on Monday promised China’s embassy in Washington that the carriers’ English and Chinese-language Web sites would only display city names for Taiwan and would remove references to Taiwan as a nation.

American Airlines yesterday morning was the first to comply, changing references from “Taipei, Taiwan,” to only “Taipei.”

When approached for questioning, department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was not informed of the latest developments and urged reporters to speak directly to the airlines.

However, the US government is opposed to such demands, she added.

“We would oppose a government’s demand on private corporations that private corporations label something the way that the government demands it to do,” she said.

Beijing understood the US government’s position well, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs spokeswoman Grace Choi said.

The department told Beijing that it was strongly opposed to attempts from China to pressure private US companies into publicly using language indicative of a particular political position, she said, adding that the department’s point of view on the matter had not changed.

Another unnamed department official reiterated that the agency was opposed to Beijing giving orders to US companies, saying that the changes could inconvenience customers.

Comparatively, Chinese companies are free to operate their Web sites without any interference from the US government, the official said, adding that the department has urged other nations to similarly express their concerns to Beijing over its pressure on private companies.

The department would continue to discuss the issue with the Chinese government, but the decision is ultimately in the hands of the companies themselves, the official said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday in a statement said that China has no jurisdiction over Taiwan and that the democratic nation’s existence cannot be denied.

“We will not simply disappear under pressure from China,” the statement said.

The ministry condemned Beijing’s use of political force to interfere with the operations of private foreign businesses as “rude and unreasonable,” saying that it has been in touch with US government departments and representatives, and hopes that the US companies would reverse the changes.

The ministry also expressed thanks to the US firms and other international airlines for showing reluctance to making the changes, despite mounting pressure from China.

Taiwan’s successes in democratization and the protection of human rights have earned it international praise, the ministry said, adding that Taiwanese would continue their way of life without deterrence by China’s threats.

Taiwan calls on the support of like-minded nations to stand up to China’s attempts to interfere with private firms, the statement added.

Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan

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