USA airlines succumb to Beijing’s ‘Orwellian Nonsense’

MOFA Spokesperson Andrew Lee at a press briefing on July 26

MOFA Spokesperson Andrew Lee at a press briefing on July 26

The US' three largest airlines - American Airlines, Delta and United - are among those that have changed how they describe Taiwan on their websites ahead of a July 25 deadline set by Beijing.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd was the territory's last commercial airline to comply with the CAAC's demands.

Other worldwide airlines, including Lufthansa, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines, had already changed their website classifications of Taiwan to "Taiwan, China" ahead of the deadline in order to avoid penalties.

The issue has always been highly sensitive for Beijing, but in recent years it has become increasingly active in clamping down on perceived violations of its territorial claims. A few hours earlier, the website said American Airlines flew to "Taipei, Taiwan".

It added that the scrapping was linked to a campaign by Taiwan NGOs seeking a referendum on whether the island should participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics under the name "Taiwan", rather than "Chinese Taipei", which had been agreed by both sides for previous Olympic events.

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In a letter published by the Washington Post, Chinese authorities asked that references to Taiwan be changed to "Taiwan, China" or "Taiwan, Province of China".

A simple arrival or departure airport search on American Airlines' site listed the cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung with no reference to Taiwan.

But not all airlines have applied the change in the same way: Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, for example, have opted to list destinations by city and airport.

"We would oppose a government's demand on private corporations that private corporations label something the way that the government demands it to do", she said.

Beijing's action is aimed at increasing Taiwan's isolation and prodding it toward a political union with the mainland.

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Taiwan's successes in democratization and the protection of human rights have earned it worldwide praise, the ministry said, adding that Taiwanese would continue their way of life without deterrence by China's threats.

The collapse of USA airline resistance to what the State Department once denounced as petty tyranny will probably reinforce that conclusion.

But China's assertiveness earned a rebuke from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said governments shouldn't "threaten the ordinary operations of business". United, Air China and China Eastern together account for more than 50 percent of the market share, followed by China Southern. United went to "Taipei (TPE-Taoyuan)".

Earlier this year, China demanded that foreign firms, and airlines in particular, not refer to Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory on their websites.

"We're a business with significant global activities and we need to deal with regulations in all of those jurisdictions", Peter Ingram, Hawaiian's chief executive officer, said Tuesday by telephone. Taiwan's people will not cease in their support and pursuit of democratic values and lifestyles simply because of China's coercion.

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The EAOC did not immediately respond to an email request for comment from Reuters, which was unable to trace its telephone number. A White House spokesperson said on Tuesday that they are "aware" of the situation.

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