Switzerland began replacing "Taiwan" with "Chinese Taipei" in the nationality columns of residence permits issued to Republic of China citizens in August, a move believed to be done under pressure from China.
At least three cantons -- Bern, Geneva and Zurich -- began changing the nationality designation of Taiwanese when issuing or renewing their residence permits about two months ago.
The cantons made the move under the instruction of the federal government, officials said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) launched new passports with "Taiwan" on the cover on Sept. 1, saying the measure would help distinguish Taiwan from the People's Republic of China (PRC).
Switzerland's policy change coming as Taiwan issued the new passports was not accidental, the state-run Central News Agency (CNA) reported yesterday based on an interview with a Swiss official.
"The move was taken under China's pressure," a Swiss official said in response to questions from the its Department of European Affairs.
Rex Wang (王世榕), Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Switzerland, based in Bern, said yesterday he discussed the matter with a high-ranking Swiss official in charge of Asia-Pacific affairs two days ago.
Declining to name his contact, Wang said the official, contradicting the reply the ministry received, insisted China played no part in the decision to change the nationality designation on residence permits.
The official who talked to Wang said, "Switzerland is a sovereign country. The new policy about Taiwanese residence permits is an internal affair and has nothing to do with China. It has nothing to do with Taiwan's new version passports, either."
According to the official, the policy was designed to distinguish Taiwan from China. To achieve that purpose, the adoption of the term "Republic of China" was not a good choice.
"As Taiwan is not a country name, we have decided to use `Chinese Taipei' -- a name accepted on many international occasions -- on the residence permits," the official said.
The official was also quoted as saying the Swiss government did not realize why a small internal matter would cause such an uproar from Taiwan.
MOFA has expressed concerns about the policy and demanded Switzerland change the nationality designation.