The BBC’s reference to Taipei as “Taiwan’s capital” in a report on Typhoon Soudelor’s damage in the city has gone viral on Taiwanese internet forums.

In a photo showing Soudelor’s destruction in the BBC article, a caption reads, “The typhoon brought down roofs in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.”

BBC caption: “The typhoon brought down roofs in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.”

In Taiwan, public opinion is divided on how to name the island.

The current constitution of Republic of China, as Taiwan is officially known, does not indicate where the capital is.

The pro-independence camp view Taiwan as an independent entity, and Taipei is referred as the capital of the state.

The label of Taipei as Taiwan’s capital subsequently sparked a lively discussion on PTT, Taiwan’s Reddit-like forum.

Liberty Square, one of Taipei’s landmark. Photo: Flickr via corker888.

Twenty-five internet users wrote in a post, “Please leave BBC alone, Tsai Ing-wen.”

The phrase was meant to mock the pro-unification Kuomintang party (KMT). Some Taiwanese think that the KMT has a tendency to shift blame onto Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s presidential candidate.

A user joked, “BBC is green!” Green is the colour of DPP supporters. Another said, “KMT will be very unhappy as they still insist that Nanjing is the capital.”

Nanjing was listed as the capital of the Republic of China in Taiwan’s constitution during the Period of Political Tutelage, but the article was deleted after its ratification.

But some commentators did not see the reference as a big deal.

“What BBC meant was Taiwan’s capital, not the Republic of China’s capital,” an user said. It is still a dispute for Taiwanese people whether the Republic of China equals to Taiwan only, or if it includes its original parts in mainland China.

Another said, “DPP supporters get excited so easily. ‘Capital’ could just mean an important city. It did not say Taiwan is a nation.”

There did not seem to be any definite answer to this debate, however. Citing former mayor Hau Lung-pin of the KMT, Taipei City Government’s website states that “Taipei is the capital of the Republic of China.”

A Ministry of Education document sent to schools in 2013, however, identified Nanjing as the capital of the ROC.

Critics blasted the move as both an attempt by pro-unification President Ma Ying-jeou to strengthen links with China and a misinterpretation of the constitution. Taiwan’s interior minister was latter forced to reaffirm to the legislature that “since Taipei is the seat of our central government, it is our nation’s capital.”

The Executive Yuan, which is the executive branch of the Taiwanese government, uses “Republic of China (Taiwan)” on its website. It says that Republic of China moved to Taiwan in 1949.


Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.