Taiwan authorities refuted a rumour on Monday that its citizens will no longer be able to use their Republic of China passports as travel documents.

According to Taiwanese newspaper Liberty Times, the rumour originated from a message spread on various online platforms including messaging app Line.

It claimed that airlines would no longer be accepting the passports as travel documents starting on July 20 in compliance with a request from China.

Republic of China Taiwan passport
File photo: Tzuhsun Hsu via Flickr.

“Due to China’s request, Taiwan is no longer listed as an individual country, passports are invalid, and another ID must be used. Please remember your IDs,” the message said. It claimed that a Taiwanese national was not able to board an Air Canada flight to London using his passport, and that two others were also prevented from boarding their flights.

The rumour came after several major foreign airlines – including US and Hong Kong carriers – changed the way they refer to Taiwan under pressure from Beijing. The changes had no effect upon Taiwan’s official status but are seen as a symbolic move for Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the island.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that the rumours were misinformation and urged citizens not to believe them “to avoid relaying rumours, causing unnecessary anxiety and even affecting plans to travel abroad.”

It added that Taiwanese nationals can still enjoy visa-free entry to the UK and the EU, and that 167 countries in total offer visa-free entry, or visas upon arrival, to Taiwanese passport holders.

The European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan also issued a statement reiterating that Taiwanese passport holders can visit the Schengen area for visits of up to 90 days within a period of 180 days using their Taiwanese passports.

“No changes are foreseen to this policy,” it added.

According to the Taiwan Sentinel, rumours and disinformation spread by outlets – many with links to China – have become common in Taiwan in recent years, draining government resources by forcing it to respond to wild rumours.

Taiwan – officially known as the Republic of China – has been self-ruled since its split from the mainland after the 1949 civil war. Currently, it maintains diplomatic ties with only 17 of 163 United Nations countries.

It strongly condemned China’s requests to the airlines last week, saying: “Taiwan’s government calls on all like-minded nations to work closely with it to curb China’s bullying in the international arena and prevent China’s interference in the business practices of other countries from becoming an accepted norm.”

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.