World News

Taiwan urges courage, defiance of China's 'bullying' over web references

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan hopes countries around the world can show courage in the face of pressure from China on their companies to list the self-ruled island as part of China on their websites, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A double rainbow is seen behind Taiwanese flag during the National Day celebrations in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

China has demanded that foreign firms, and airlines in particular, begin referring to Taiwan as Chinese territory on their websites, along with Hong Kong and Macau, a move described by White House as “Orwellian nonsense”.

Taiwan is claimed by China as its own, and is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a potential military flashpoint. Hong Kong and Macau are former European colonies that are part of China but run largely autonomously.

Carriers such as Air Canada, Lufthansa and British Airways have already made changes to their websites, and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd said this week it would also comply with China’s request.

Taiwan has repeatedly complained about the moves.

“We hope that governments around the world show moral courage and carry out the principles of fairness and justice, and not give any country the opportunity to use such bullying on their firms,” Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee told reporters.

“Because this sends the wrong message to international companies, and sets a very bad example,” he added.

“I think this is like China intervening in and disturbing the normal operations of international firms with political force, damaging normal business operations. This is really unacceptable.”

China says it is doing nothing wrong, as most countries around the world accept that Taiwan is Chinese territory.

In a separate statement, the Taiwan ministry said it had lodged a complaint with Qantas about its decision and to ask them to rescind it.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday criticized China for pressuring Qantas, adding to already tense relations between Beijing and Canberra.

China’s hostility to the democratic island has increased since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016. China fears she wishes to push for the island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing.

Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo, but will defend the island’s security and way of life.

China has in recent months been upping its policing of how foreign firms describe Taiwan in particular.

Japanese retailer Muji was fined after being found to be using packaging that listed Taiwan as a country while U.S. retailer Gap Inc issued an apology for selling a T-shirt which it said had an incorrect map of China.

Reporting by Judy Peng and Jess Macy Yu; Writing by Ben Blanchard