Thursday, 7 June 2018

CHINA: China Orders Airlines To Refer To Taiwan, Macau And Hongkong As Chinese Territories On Their Websites

Companies should be able to conduct operations free of political pressure from governments, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday criticised China for pressuring national flag carrier Qantas Airways to change its website to refer to Taiwan as a Chinese territory, ramping up tensions between the two countries.

Qantas said on Monday it had decided to comply with a request from Beijing to remove references on its websites and in other material that suggest Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are part of countries independent from China.

Australia’s government already adheres to the one-China policy, which means it does not recognise Taiwan as a country.

However, Bishop said in an emailed statement that private companies should be able to conduct business operations free from political pressure from governments.

The decision of how Qantas structures its website is a matter for the company, she said.

Self-ruled Taiwan is claimed by Beijing as a Chinese territory and has become one of the country’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.

Hong Kong and Macau are former European colonies that are now part of China but run largely autonomously.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had noted Bishop’s comments but was not sure what the minister was trying to say.

Because there is only one China in the world. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau have always been part of China this is an objective fact and a matter of international consensus, she said at a daily news briefing.

When it comes to a matter like this it is not a procedural or technical issue but a major political issue.

Sino-Australian relations have soured in recent months, just two years into a free-trade pact after Canberra accused Beijing of interfering in its domestic affairs.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referenced disturbing reports of Chinese meddling when he announced plans late last year to introduce tough new legislation to limit foreign influence, including a ban on offshore political donations.

China denied the allegations and lodged a formal diplomatic protest in response.

Beijing has in recent months renewed its push to force Western companies to comply with its naming standards – which Washington has labelled Orwellian nonsense or risk losing access to China’s huge market.

Clothing supplier Gap and hotel chain Marriott have also come under pressure to amend websites or products that were perceived as slights to its national sovereignty.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said at an annual meeting of global airlines in Sydney that our intention is to meet the requirements, but there were some technical delays.

Qantas International chief Alison Webster said: We have some complexity to work through. This is not just a Qantas airline, it’s a Qantas Group piece that needs to be adjusted.

The carrier had been given an extension to make the changes, she said.

Meanwhile, China has extended its deadline for international airlines to change how they refer to Chinese territories on their websites, after a majority of carriers said they needed more time to iron out technical problems.

The civil aviation administration said late on Friday that just 18 of the 44 companies it contacted last month had so far complied with its request to make clear that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are all parts of China.

The online statement came after Global Times, a nationalist tabloid owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said on Wednesday that 23 carriers had made the necessary changes.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China sent letters to the airlines on April 25 saying they had violated the one-China policy and would face severe consequences if they did not remove references on their websites and in other material that suggested Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau were independent territories.

In the statement, the industry watchdog said that 26 airlines had applied for more time due to technical reasons and promised to make the changes, by July 25 at the latest.

Australia’s Qantas Airways on Thursday said it had been given more time by the authority.

Air Canada, British Airways and Lufthansa are among the carriers that have complied with Beijing’s order that on their global websites the self-ruled island of Taiwan is clearly labelled as being part of China.

The three companies said they abide by laws and regulations internationally and in the jurisdictions in which they work.

This includes taking customs of the international clientele into consideration, Lufthansa said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese foreign ministry last week asked Air Canada to make a speedy correction after it moved to list Taipei, the island’s capital, as a part of China on its booking website.

The ministry said also that it objects to Beijing’s efforts to bully, coerce and threaten their way to achieving their political objectives.

In a statement issued on May 6, the White House described Beijing’s order as Orwellian nonsense.

US President Donald Trump will stand up for Americans resisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens, it said.

This is Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies.

We call on China to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens, the statement said.

Several major US carriers, including United Airlines, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, have yet to change the wording on their websites.


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