Australia’s Qantas has changed its Web site classification of Taiwan and Hong Kong from separate countries to Chinese territories after Chinese regulators scolded several foreign firms over similar listings.
The airline yesterday said that it was amending an “oversight,” following in the footsteps of several other international corporations that were in the past week called out by Chinese authorities.
“Due to an oversight, some Chinese territories were incorrectly listed as ‘countries’ on parts of our Web site,” a Qantas spokesperson said. “We are correcting this error.”
To comply, Qantas has deleted several lists that categorized destinations by country.
However, according to the news.com.au Web site, Qantas has been accused by some Australians on social media of giving into Chinese “bullying” by making changes to its Web site and marketing materials so Taiwan is no longer listed as a separate country.
One user said Qantas was “bowing to China’s bullying and petulance,” while another said China had as much right to Taiwan as Mexico did to Texas.
Reuters cited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday as saying that it had contacted relevant companies to comply with the government’s strict position on the issue and to reject China’s difficult and unilateral requests.
“We are closely watching the following developments,” ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said.
“Of course, with the fact that Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country, there won’t be any change to this as a result of China’s unilateral way of handling things,” Reuters quoted Lee as saying.
China has stepped up efforts to police how foreign businesses refer to parts of China or territories claimed by Beijing, even if only in pull-down menus on Web sites.
Shanghai’s cyberspace authority last week sent a stern message to international firms when it ordered Marriott International to shut down its Chinese Web site for a week and amend what it termed the “illegal” categorization of regions Beijing claims under its authority.
Spanish clothing giant Zara, Delta Air Lines and Medtronic — a medical device company — were also called out for listing Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong as separate countries and urged to “immediately alter their illegal content and publish apologies.”
They have since apologized and changed their Web sites.
In a separate rebuke, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in an online statement that Tibet and Taiwan were listed as countries on Delta Air Line’s official Web site.
The airline issued a public apology and amended its classification of the regions.
Additional reporting by Reuters and staff writer
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