March 11, 2020 / 6:46 AM / 3 months ago

Taiwan protests as top U.S. university labels island part of China on virus map

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s government said on Wednesday it would lodge a protest with a top U.S. university, Johns Hopkins, after it began listing the island as part of China on map detailing the spread of the new coronavirus.

China has been exerting pressure on foreign companies and institutions to call Chinese-claimed Taiwan part of China, and often to name it merely a Chinese province.

Taiwan has strongly objected to this, saying it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name, that it has never been part of the People’s Republic of China and that Beijing has no authority over the island.

The issue has come to a head again during the virus outbreak, with the World Health Organization (WHO) listing Taiwan’s case numbers under China’s, referring to the island as “Taipei and environs”.

The designation "Taipei and environs, China" is now being used by Johns Hopkins on an interactive map it publishes (coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html) tracking the virus outbreak around the world.

The change was first reported by the Axios news website.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Joanne Ou, said it was aware that the university had changed the island’s name from Taiwan to “Taipei and environs”.

“On Johns Hopkins’ inappropriate labelling of Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry has tasked our representative office in the United States with immediately lodging representations with the university, and demand it changes it,” she said in a statement.

Johns Hopkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why the change had been made and whether it was done at the behest of the Chinese government.

Axios said the university had said it would be changing the name back to Taiwan. But it has yet to be changed.

Taiwan has reported 48 virus cases, compared with more than 80,000 in China, and has won plaudits from experts for effective controls at keeping its tally so low considering it is next to China and how many Taiwan people work and live in China.

Taiwan has accused China of refusing to allow it first-hand virus information by blocking its access to the WHO. Both China and the WHO say Taiwan is provided with the help it needs.

China says it alone has the right to speak for Taiwan.

The island is not governed in any way by Beijing, and Beijing has no direct say in its health policy or how it handles the virus.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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