As the nation welcomes home Taiwanese who had been stranded in China’s Hubei Province — arguably one of the most dangerous places on Earth since the novel coronavirus outbreak began in its capital, Wuhan, late last year — problems surrounding the “quasi-charter flights” that brought them back have been largely overlooked.
The media used the term to describe the two flights dispatched by Taiwan’s state-run China Airlines because they do not count as charter flights. Taiwanese wanting to board those flights had to travel — most likely by train — more than 1,000km from Hubei to Shanghai Pudong International Airport at short notice.
To prevent the flights being seen by outside observers as one nation evacuating its citizens from another nation, Beijing deliberately made them inconvenient for Taiwanese who wanted to return home — by having them travel to Shanghai to board a “normal” flight. With health authorities in Taiwan and around the world having advised people against taking long train rides, the move was made in total disregard of the risk to evacuees.
Since the first charter flight arranged by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Committee member Hsu Cheng-wen (徐正文), Beijing has become increasingly picky over the way in which flights involving Taiwanese should be operated, taking more than a month before allowing China Airlines and China Eastern Airlines to bring Taiwanese home on March 10 and March 11.
China is obviously subjecting Taiwan to more unfavorable terms, and if things continue in this direction, there is no telling what outlandish terms Beijing might come up with.
Lawmakers across party lines have asked Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) how upcoming flights would be carried out.
Su said the government had suffered “setbacks” during its evacuation talks with Chinese authorities, and that Beijing has given it “a lot of trouble by insisting on this and that.” The government refrained from “bargaining too much” with Beijing, as it hoped to bring more people home, Su said, declining to discuss details.
People now have a glimpse of what Beijing’s stipulations were. As expected, they were laughable and completely unnecessary, as with any of its past attempts to belittle the nation.
Beijing might have thought that by excluding Taiwan from its normal operations regarding the repatriation of foreigners, it could hide that Taiwanese were being evacuated from Hubei, just like the people of other nations were.
However, Taiwan’s international status has been unaffected by the move, and word about the evacuation has gotten out all the same. In a classic case of self-deception, Beijing’s handling of the flights fits perfectly with a Chinese folk tale about a thief who tried to steal a bell and believed that he could go unnoticed just by covering his ears.
As if causing a pandemic and triggering a global economic meltdown were not enough, China seemed compelled to cover up the two evacuation flights, insisting that it was in a position to negotiate.
Such willfulness has proven that China, as mighty and powerful as it so often professes to be, is an insecure, fascist nation that cannot maintain its composure during an outbreak.
More Taiwanese are in Hubei waiting to return home. China should grow up, get some sense and allow them to board a flight home from the nearest airport.
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