China Bullies Germany into Removing Taiwanese Flag from Foreign Ministry Website

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Getty Images

The German Foreign Ministry has quietly replaced the flag of Taiwan depicted on its website with a blank white square — which, as one German reporter pointed out in a contentious exchange with a ministry spokesman Friday, looks quite like Germany is waving the white flag of surrender to Communist China.

Taiwan News recounted the question and answer session between a determined reporter who noticed the missing Taiwanese flag and a flustered Foreign Ministry spokesman, who terminated the press conference after getting one too many questions about the change:

At the 1:01:12 mark of an hour-long press conference on Friday, a German reporter asked, “Why did [sic] Taiwan’s flag disappear and become a blank column in the introduction of national conditions of various countries on the official website of the German foreign ministry? Is this a white flag raised to the Chinese? What’s going on? Except for Taiwan, other countries have flags. What is going on with the German foreign ministry?”

In response, the foreign ministry’s deputy spokesman, Rainer Breul, said that “it isn’t a current change.”

Unsatisfied with the response, the reporter pressed further by asking “whether currently or not, is it missing? Why did you remove it?” Breul responded by saying, “You know Taiwan’s special status, you know our position, our ‘one China policy,’ we have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and Taiwan is not a country we recognize, so this is not surprising. When we introduce regions of the world, we distinguish them from countries with diplomatic ties.”

Refusing to take the canned response, the reporter replied, “Since when did the official website of the German Foreign Ministry no longer use Taiwan’s flag?” He then asked why the Palestinian flag can still be found on the website even though it is not an officially recognized country.

Taiwan News noted it is not clear when the German Foreign Ministry pulled the Taiwanese flag from its website, but the change does not appear to have been widely noticed before it was discussed during the Friday press conference.

The Chinese government has worked for years to diplomatically isolate Taiwan by bribing or bullying its diplomatic allies into rescinding their recognition of its government. China insists these countries recognize Taiwan as a semi-autonomous province under Beijing’s control. Taiwanese have become increasingly resistant to that arrangement, which they have never agreed to in their history, as they watch China’s ugly crackdown on Hong Kong’s autonomy.

China has used political and economic pressure on numerous occasions to force foreign governments and businesses to submit to its speech codes and cease referring to Taiwan as an independent entity. American corporations, notably including the airline industry, have bowed to such pressure campaigns.

The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Monday said Germany’s erasure of the Taiwanese flag was unacceptable and would “only cause unnecessary misunderstandings with the people of all countries.”

“We express our hope that the German side can properly adjust the web design of the German Federal Foreign Office in a more equitable and consistent manner to avoid discriminatory misunderstandings,” the Taiwanese statement said.

MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters Monday that her office has “gravely expressed our government’s position” to the German Foreign Ministry institute in Taipei.

Ou stressed that Taiwan “cannot accept this kind of discrimination.”

The Jerusalem Post quoted Bijan Djir-Sara, a parliament member from Germany’s Free Democratic Party, expressing disbelief at the quiet removal of Taiwan’s flag. Djir-Sarai said the move was “embarrassing and unworthy of the Federal Foreign Office.”

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