Wed, Dec 05, 2012 - Page 3 News List

MOFA under fire for film’s use of ‘Formosa’ for Taiwan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday dismissed concerns that the nation’s sovereign status had been downgraded by a short film the ministry made to promote Taiwan’s participation at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which said “Formosa” was an acceptable name for Taiwan.

“Formosa” was a just a substitute word for Taiwan, not a downgrading of national sovereignty, ministry spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said in response to criticism by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The ministry last week released the 12-minute film, titled Name for a Wonderland, to drum up international support for Taiwan’s bid to participate in the UN-affiliated agency, which has been closed to the nation since it lost its seat at the UN in 1972.

Since 1995, Taiwan has participated in Communication on Progress meetings as an observer under the name Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which in official UNFCCC documents was identified as an NGO located in Hsinchu, China.

This year, Taiwan followed the previous nomenclature when it participated in the 18th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the UNFCCC, held in Doha from Nov. 26 to Friday, in which its delegation was present as a non-governmental observer.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has tried to elevate Taiwan’s status to a state observer since September 2009, when he made the case for the country to be allowed to “participate meaningfully” in the UNFCCC and the International Civil Aviation Organization, much like Taiwan participates in the WHO.

However, the government has not filed a formal request for entry.

The film follows a girl from a country where people must wear gas masks due to air pollution as she travels to another country where a boy shows her the carbon reduction methods that his nation employs.

The girl then shares her experiences of the environmentally friendly country, called Formosa, on her Facebook page.

The final scene shows a man at a UNFCCC meeting saying that: “To help build a sustainable world, I believed Formosa should be allowed to join us.” He had been shown saying earlier that “I still cannot be sure Formosa exists. Does its name really matter all that much?”

Taiwan became known as “Formosa” after Portuguese sailors spotted the country in 1566 and dubbed it “La Ilha Formosa,” or “Beautiful Island,” on their maps.

DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said the ministry used the term “Formosa” because it did not dare say “Taiwan,” adding that the ministry’s film suggested that a country’s name was of little importance.

Perry Shen (申佩璜), the director-general of the ministry’s Department of Treaty and Legal Affairs, said the government has not made a decision on the name under which Taiwan seeks to join the UNFCCC.

“We are still in the stage of building up international support because China is still strongly opposed to the move,” Shen said.

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