Business

American Airlines and Cathay Pacific bow to China pressure on Taiwan


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Reuters

American Airlines and Cathay Pacific have become the latest carriers to change how they refer to Taiwan online, bowing to pressure from China.

Beijing set 25 July as a deadline for companies and airlines to remove references to Taiwan as anything but a Chinese territory on their websites.

The US carrier just lists Taipei, but Cathay refers to it as part of China.

Taiwan has been self-ruling since 1949 but China regards it as a breakaway province to be reunited one day.

The move was dismissed by the White House in May as “Orwellian nonsense”, but many global carriers including Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Qantas decided to comply with the demand coming out of one of the world’s biggest aviation markets.

A number of US airlines, however, held out and currently Delta and United Airlines continue to list the city of Taipei as being in “Taiwan” and “TW” on their websites.

American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson told the BBC in an email response: “Like other carriers, American is implementing changes to address China’s request. Air travel is global business, and we abide by the rules in countries where we operate”.

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.

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American Airlines

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Taipei is listed without giving any country name on the American Airlines website

In April, China’s Civil Aviation Administration wrote to more than 40 airlines worldwide telling them to abide by its laws and regulations and sovereignty claims, and threatening sanctions should they not fall in line.

Beijing demanded that neither Taiwan and Hong Kong nor Macau should be listed as separate places in for instance drop-down menus of company websites.

British Airways, Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France and Singapore Airlines all list Taipei as in “Taiwan, China”. Australia’s Qantas in June also gave in to Chinese demands leading to the government in Canberra criticising Chinese “pressure” over the situation.

“Private companies should be free to conduct their usual business operations free from political pressure of governments,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said at the time.

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Delta

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Just before the deadline, Delta still lists Taipei as being in Taiwan

China’s vociferous defence of its territorial claims is not just directed at the airline industry.

Earlier this year US clothing company GAP apologised for selling T-shirts with a map of China which did not show Taiwan and other disputed territories.

Japanese retail chain Muji recently has been fined in China for listing Taiwan as a country on some of its packaging.

Hotel chain Marriott also briefly had its Chinese website suspended for listing Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.



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