The US government this week issued its annual report on the diplomatic niceties of dealing with Taiwan — and stumbled right into a protocol blunder, as the US Department of Homeland Security was caught referring to Taiwan on its Web site as a “province of China.”
Bob Yang (楊英育), president of the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs, wrote to US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano complaining: “It is of course incontestable reality that Taiwan is NOT a province of China.
“Taiwan is a sovereign independent country with its own elected president,” his message read.
“I hereby respectfully request that the Bureau [sic] of Homeland Security adopt the US national policies and correct this factual error in all computers and strike all ‘Province of China’ references in the system when referring to Taiwan,” he said.
An embarrassed department official replied: “Thank you for alerting us to an erroneous characterization of Taiwan on a Department of Homeland Security Web site.”
He said the department had “immediately initiated action” to correct its mistake.
By coincidence, the error was made just as the US State Department issued its yearly guidelines on contacts with Taiwan.
The four-page memorandum detailing exactly how all US government officials should act when they become involved with Taiwan, states clearly that the US government refers to Taiwan simply as “Taiwan.”
It adds: “The US Government does not refer to Taiwan as the Republic of China, the Republic of China on Taiwan or a country.”
Just how or why the Department of Homeland Security made the mistake in the first place remains a mystery.
Among the State Department rules confirmed this week:
Meetings between US government officials and Taiwanese authorities outside the US must be held outside government offices, in private rooms or restaurants.
US embassy personnel can attend private parties given by Taiwanese representatives in their homes, but not in their offices.
Representatives of Taiwan may not be invited to US functions held in official US offices, but it is permissible to invite them to parties held in private homes or cafes.