MOTC mulls steps against airlines caving to China

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Aug 07, 2018 - Page 1

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) is considering possible punitive actions against foreign airlines that have conceded to Beijing’s pressure and explicitly listed Taipei or Taiwan as part of China, it said yesterday, adding that nothing has been decided yet.

Some of the proposed measures include banning these carriers from using airport jet bridges to disembark passengers and moving their flights to less favorable time slots, the ministry said in a statement after the Chinese-language United Daily News reported about the proposals yesterday.

The ministry plans to reward carriers that do not list Taipei or Taiwan as a Chinese territory by reducing their landing charges and facility fees, the report said.

“The Civil Aeronautics Administration on Friday notified airlines that list Taipei or Taiwan as part of China that their actions have severely infringed upon the rights of the people of a sovereign nation, and that they should correct the situation immediately,” MOTC Deputy Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said. “However, we are still in the stage of researching all possible retaliatory measures and have yet to make any final decision.”

MOTC Minister Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) has yet to give specific instructions at internal meetings on the matter, he told the Chinese-language Apple Daily in an interview yesterday, adding that measures have been proposed, but that further research and discussion are needed.

The ministry has prioritized reaching out to carriers and working with them, regardless of their response to Beijing, to protect the rights of Taiwanese travelers, he said.

Various parties have criticized the ministry for thinking of retaliating against Beijing for downgrading Taiwan’s status in the international community.

Banning foreign carriers from using airport jet bridges could cause a shortfall in the Civil Aviation Operation Fund, which relies in part on revenue from carriers using the bridges, aviation industry representatives said.

The fund is used to upgrade airport facilities, they said.

Flight time slots entail extensive communication and coordination with carriers and air traffic controllers throughout the world, and such arrangements cannot unilaterally be altered by Taiwan, the representatives said.

The ministry’s measures are just proposals, DPP caucus secretary-general Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said, adding that the ministry should not have leaked such half-baked ideas to the media.

Any countermeasure that the government implements would require cautious assessment and much discussion, Lee said.

The ministry does not have the authority to enact such measures, he added.

China pressuring international airlines as a way to oppress Taiwan would not improve cross-strait relations, he said, adding that the only hindrance to cross-strait relations is the political undercurrent that China injects into everything.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) condemns the proposed moves, as they would compromise the convenience of Taiwanese travelers and aviation safety, KMT caucus secretary-general Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) said.

While the ministry’s measures would target foreign airlines, it would mostly be Taiwanese passengers who would be affected, Tseng said.

Not allowing airlines to use jet bridges might give international travelers the impression that airports in Taiwan do not have adequate facilities and cause passengers to complain, he said.

It would tarnish Taiwan’s image and hurt its airports’ performance, he said, adding that the ministry must carefully consider all options.

Beijing and President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration must stop resorting to retaliatory moves to address cross-strait tensions, Tseng said.

The two governments should improve relations through restraint and dialogue, keeping people’s welfare in mind, he said.