The government should think long and hard before pursuing legal action to counter Beijing’s demand that international airlines designate Taiwan as part of China, or the effort could prove “expensive and time-consuming,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said yesterday.
The government is also considering calling for a boycott of carriers that complied with Beijing’s demand.
“We will tell our people: ‘Those are the airlines that caved in to China; it is your choice [whether to use them],’” National Security Council Secretary-General David Lee (李大維) said on Tuesday.
Although pursuing legal action against the carriers would be a complex process and “might take two to three years” to reach a ruling, “it will signal that we are fighting back, that we will not just sit idly by,” Lee said.
Asked for comment, Lo, a member of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said the government needs to think through the possible scenarios should it decide to pursue legal action over the matter.
“The government should first clarify who suffers most from Beijing pressuring foreign airlines to designate Taiwan as part of China, and study where and when to file a possible legal suit accordingly,” said Lo, an assistant professor at Soochow University’s Department of Political Science.
Whether the legal suit should be filed at the WTO, where Taiwan is a member, or in the nations where the carriers are based needs to be considered, he said.
The government should also consider what kind of ruling it would have a chance of winning, before deciding whether to take legal action, Lo said.
“Otherwise, the move would be very expensive, time-consuming and futile,” he said.
The name changes came after the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration in April sent a letter to 44 international airlines demanding that they identify Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as part of China.
Several airlines, including Air Canada and Lufthansa, have complied and refer to Taiwanese destinations, such as Taipei, as being in “Taiwan, China” or “Taiwan, CN.”
No Taiwanese carriers have been asked by China to change the nation’s designation, making it difficult for Taiwan to take legal action at the WTO on grounds that Taiwanese customers’ interests have been harmed, a source familiar with international litigation said yesterday.
It is also highly unlikely that Taiwan could ask other nations, such as the US and Japan, to file a lawsuit on its behalf, since both nations have carriers that chose to change Taiwan’s designation, the source added.
Moreover, whether Taiwanese customers’ interests have been harmed is debatable, as the name change has not caused financial losses to airline passengers, the source said.
All these factors make it very difficult for the government to take legal action, he added.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said the government has not made a final decision on whether to take legal action.
“Such measures are still being discussed and evaluated, we will make the final decision as to if and when to take action by making national interests our top priority,” he said.
Meanwhile, Li Kexin (李克新), a minister at the Chinese embassy in the US, told a forum in Washington on Tuesday that the US government must encourage its airlines to comply with Beijing’s “one China” principle.
“If you want to do business in a country, you must comply with the laws of that country,” Li told the forum at the Institute for China-America Studies, adding that failure to do so would result in disciplinary measures.
“China wants a candid relationship with the US and any issue is open for discussion, except the ‘Taiwan problem,’” Li said.
“For China, Taiwan is not a foreign relations topic, it is an issue of sovereignty,” he added.
Under the “one China” framework, the US-Taiwan relationship can also advance, but there are some who want to destroy that framework, Li said.
The US’ Taiwan Travel Act is “a grave mistake,” he said.
The act, signed by US President Donald Trump on March 16, encourages mutual visits between Taiwanese and US high-level officials.
Li also criticized the US’ National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which contains provisions favorable to Taiwan’s defense, saying: “These moves will make the possible impossible.”
No Chinese official will ever compromise on the issue of Taiwan, he added.
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