China Says Its Right to Silence U.S. Airlines on Taiwan ‘Non-Negotiable’

AFP found at least eight foreign airlines were still listing Taiwan as a country on their websites as of Friday
AFP/ANTHONY WALLACE

The Chinese government insisted on Thursday, through its foreign ministry and the propaganda publication People’s Daily, that China’s policy of harassing foreign corporations that acknowledge Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Macau as distinct from mainland China is “non-negotiable” after the U.S. requested a dialogue on the subject.

China’s Communist Party leadership has demanded that global airlines, hotels, and other international companies not list Taiwan or Hong Kong on their websites in lists of “country” destinations and threatened financial harm to any company that does not abide by their speech code. American commercial airlines make up most of the few holdouts that refuse to accept the policy. The Trump administration has supported their decision to disregard China, referring to the policy in May as “Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies.”

A Reuters report published this week quoted an unnamed State Department official confirming that Washington reached out to Beijing for “consultations” on its policy, but the Chinese regime rejected the request.

“U.S. airlines should not be forced to comply with this order. We have called on China to stop threatening and coercing American companies and citizens,” the official told Reuters.

Asked about the policy, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang did not confirm whether China rejected such a request or not, instead insisting that there is no room for debate on corporations following Communist Party censorship demands.

“The Civil Aviation Administration of China has made clear China’s position on this issue. We have also repeated our position many times. There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” Lu said. “It is a fact acknowledged by the international community, and it is also common sense.”

“Respecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and observing China’s laws is a fundamental principle that foreign enterprises operating in China must follow. On this issue, China’s position is clear-cut, firm and consistent,” Lu concluded.

The People’s Daily quoted Lu and added that he “also pointed out that the one-China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations and is nonnegotiable.” The United States follows the one-China policy, which prevents Washington from acknowledging Taiwan’s sovereignty but does allow for many mutual ties and legislation that facilitates Taiwan exercising its sovereignty, in the travel of Taiwanese citizens and joint military exercises, for example. The one-China principle that China refers to is a complete refusal to acknowledge Taiwan’s sovereignty, instead viewing the island as a rogue province under Beijing.

Taiwan reacted to China’s declaration on the airlines by calling the Xi Jinping regime “hysterical.”

“Over the past few months, Beijing has been pressuring foreign airlines to list Taiwan as Taiwan, China. This practice has reached an [sic] hysterical level,” Taiwanese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee said on Friday.

Under President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan has escalated its international presence and warnings that, through various measures like its colonization of the South China Sea and the One Belt, One Road program, China has become a global threat. In an interview with the Agence France-Presse this week, Tsai urged the free world to “work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.”

China has given all airlines flying into the country until July 25 to modify all travel itineraries. Air Canada, Lufthansa, and British Airways, among others, have complied with the demands not to list Taiwan as a country. U.S.-based carriers have not, however, including United Airlines and Delta.

In addition to harassing airlines, China has successfully pressured other corporations that run afoul of Beijing’s speech codes to censor themselves. In one of this year’s most prominent cases, the Communist Party of China successfully pressured Marriott International to profusely apologize for mentioning Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan on their website country lists. Marriott also fired an American social media worker for liking a tweet from the anti-communist account Friends of Tibet, despite China banning Twitter throughout the country, meaning no one in China could have seen the Twitter like.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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