Although news reports have been dominated by lawmakers’ scheduled review of the qualifications of Control Yuan member nominees and an ensuing vote at the Legislative Yuan this week, two more important issues await their consideration during the extraordinary session: changing the cover of the nation’s passport and adding “Taiwan” motifs to the fuselages of China Airlines (CAL) aircraft.
The motions for the changes have an interesting parallel with the nation’s previous efforts to update the cover of the passport by adding the word “Taiwan” in 2003, in that they were both prompted by a pandemic originating in China — SARS in 2003 and COVID-19 this year.
In both cases, the proposals reflect the desire of Taiwanese to be distinguished from Chinese, as anti-China sentiment swelled worldwide amid the outbreaks.
That desire was bolstered after photographs emerged showing batches of masks Taiwan had shipped overseas wrapped in banners reading “China Airlines,” leading to the misunderstanding that they were sent by Beijing, defeating the purpose of Taiwan’s so-called “pandemic diplomacy.”
While opposition parties have said that they are open to discussing the issues, problems and challenges loom over the proposals.
The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) proposal regarding the passport cover states that the word “Taiwan” should be featured on the cover using the Latin alphabet and Chinese.
However, as the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2003 had already added the word “Taiwan” to the cover, the DPP’s proposal would only serve to add the Chinese characters, which would not be much help when it comes to distinguishing the nation from China in the international arena, as most of the world’s population cannot read Chinese.
There is also the question of whether the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) emblem, featured prominently on the cover, should be removed almost three decades after the KMT’s party-state rule ended with the dissolution of the National Assembly.
If the DPP, which has a legislative majority, does not want to be so bold as to abolish the current version of the passport, it should at least design a new cover — one that features “Taiwan,” complete with Chinese characters and a symbol that represents the nation.
This would put the issue of passport “name rectification” to bed, and the government can decide in a few years how it would go from there by gauging public opinion.
The same goes for highlighting “Taiwan” on China Airlines aircraft. To make for a meaningful change, the words “China Airlines” should be removed, and Taiwanese motifs should be introduced in their place.
Lawmakers should consider the potential fallout and work out a long-term solution that ensures the nation’s air rights after the words “China Airlines” are removed from the airplanes. Former China Airlines pilot Chen Hsiang-lin (陳祥麟) in an op-ed published in May by the Chinese-language news site The Reporter warned of the consequences of such a move.
In September 2003, to coincide with the new design of the passport cover, the Chen Shui-bian administration painted the words “Taiwan — Touch Your Heart” on the fuselage of a China Airlines airplane.
The plane was scheduled to make its maiden flight to Japan, but due to political pressure from Beijing, several airports around the world removed the aircraft’s tail number from their flight registration data, essentially denying it permission to land, Chen Hsiang-lin said, adding that the plane never left the hangar before China Airlines repainted its fuselage back to its standard decoration.
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