Ministry denies name change charges

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 - Page 1

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official yesterday refuted an allegation that it has been inactive on a name designation for Taiwan in an international organization that belittles the country’s sovereign status by calling it “Taiwan (China).”

The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) reported yesterday on the allegation made by Allen Chen (陳昭倫), an associate researcher at Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center, who is a member of the council of the International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS), an international non-profit scientific organization.

According to Chen, as reported by the Liberty Times, the name of the nation in the ISRS was initially listed as “Taiwan R.O.C. (Republic of China).”

Under the former Democratic Progressive Party administration, the reference was changed to “Taiwan,” in line with a “name-change” campaign initiated by then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) aimed at removing symbols associated with China, Allen Chen said.

However, about six months after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to office in May 2008, the designation was restored as “Taiwan R.O.C,” Chen said. This year, the country was listed as “Taiwan (China),” he was quoted as saying.

Allen Chen said he has composed a letter to ISRS president Robert Richmond in protest against the designation in which he demanded the removal of “China.”

The designation “Taiwan (China)” was like equating the status of Taiwan to that of Hong Kong or Macau as a special administrative region of China, which is unacceptable, he said.

“Despite the severe international situation facing Taiwan, the country still manages to be independent of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.

According to Allen Chen, Richmond, in his reply letter, offered an apology for the designation and promised to make rectifications on the ISRS’ Web site.

In the face of China trying every possible means to silence Taiwan, not only in the fields of media and academics, but also in international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the ministry has done nothing to tackle the challenges, Allen Chen said.

ISRS membership is open to all people interested in the science of coral reefs. Upon registration, “Taiwan” is one of the country options for applicants to select.

Allen Chen said he found that the ISRS system refers to Taiwan as “Taiwan (China)” when he logged on to his account to renew his annual membership.

The ministry’s NGO Affairs Committee Deputy Chairman Wu Rong-chuan (吳榮泉) yesterday rebutted Chen’s accusation. Wu said he selected his country as “Taiwan” rather than “Taiwan (China)” when he registered to become a member on Friday.

The ministry has received numerous complaints from the public regarding the name of Taiwan in various international NGOs and has never been hesitant to push for corrections to be made, but “we have never heard of this case,” Wu said.

"We have being trying to contact [Allen] Chen after the Liberty Times came to us with a question on Friday, but we haven’t be able to speak to him,” Wu said.

Allen Chen was unavailable for a comment as of press time yesterday.