Taiwan’s foreign ministry has expressed “grave concern” over two US departments’ decisions to remove the Republic of China flag from Taiwan’s page on their websites.

It is unclear exactly when the icons were removed, but Apple Daily reported that the flag has been missing from the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website since September, leaving an empty frame.

Screenshot of the US Department of State website.

On the website of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, a round icon bearing the flag’s pattern was still visible on the website last October, according to The New Lens. It is no longer on the page, but the icons for the flags of other places under the “China, Mongolia & Taiwan” section – such as Macau and Hong Kong – are still visible.

Screenshot of Office of the United States Trade Representative.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Andrew Lee called the move “unacceptable” and “disappointing,” and said the ministry has spoken to the US about the matter.

According to Lee, the US reaffirmed the friendly relationship between the two and said their policy towards Taiwan has not changed. However, the flags’ removal could affect the Taiwan public’s perception of relations between the two, he added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said that they have noticed China’s continual efforts to restrict Taiwan’s space in the international realm – even on the supposedly-free internet. It said they were not conducive towards cross-strait relations.

China does not recognise Taiwan as a country and has long pressured the international community over the use of the Republic of China flag.

Photo: Emirates.

Last year, the Emirates airline crew from Taiwan were ordered to remove Taiwanese flags from their uniforms in accordance with the “One China policy,” according to an internal email circulating online. The email said that the order was in accordance with instructions from the Chinese government. Later, however, the airline said that it was recalling all flag pins worn by cabin crew as part of a uniform update.

Earlier last year, an internal calendar distributed by Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific also opted not to show the flag of Taiwan.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.