British regulator to review Taiwan-China bird spat

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Britain’s charity regulator said on Tuesday it was investigating a British bird conservation group that cut ties with a Taiwanese counterpart because it refused to promise in writing not to use terms that represent the island as independent of China.

China has increased pressure on international groups and companies to refer to democratically ruled Taiwan as part of China rather than simply as “Taiwan” - to the anger of Taiwan’s government and many of its people.

According to correspondence published last week, the Cambridge-based BirdLife International was concerned that Taiwan’s Chinese Wild Bird Federation, since renamed the Taiwan Wild Bird Federation (TWBF), was bent on asserting Taiwan’s formal independence, contravening the U.N. protocols that BirdLife adheres to.

The TWBF for its part has said that, as an apolitical conservation group, it cannot sign any documents about Taiwan’s political status.

In an emailed statement, Britain’s Charity Commission said BirdLife itself had submitted an incident report.

“We have opened a compliance case to assess all information provided, in order to determine our next steps,” the Commission said.

BirdLife, which has forbidden its employees to comment, did not immediately respond to an inquiry, and the TWBF said it could not comment.

Several other bird groups have said they will keep working with the TWBF, including a major partner of BirdLife, Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The flap has come at a time of mounting tension between Taiwan and China, whose air force has repeatedly buzzed the island, including again on Tuesday, according to Taiwan’s Defence Ministry.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kevin Liffey