Taiwan is considering counter-measures against airlines that have changed the way they refer to the island under pressure from Beijing, according to local media.

China’s civil aviation authority said last month that 40 foreign airlines changed their websites after it asked them to remove references to Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as independent regions.

File photo: Pexels/Fawwazaery Sulthansyah.

According to Taiwanese newspaper United Daily News, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) was considering taking measures against airlines that switched their labelling to “Taiwan, China.” Potential measures may include preventing the airlines from using jet bridges – causing inconvenience by forcing them to board and deplane further away from the terminal – as well as adjusting their time slots at Taiwanese airports.

Wu Hong-mo, the Minister of Transportation and Communications, told the newspaper: “We cannot accept [the changes], and must adopt countermeasures.”

He said the Ministry was looking into countermeasures and will meet with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Council this week to discuss a plan.

Although airlines including British Airways, Air France, Air Canada and Lufthansa started referring to the island as “Taiwan, China,” three US carriers cited by Chinese authorities attempted to compromise by dropping the country name from destinations.

Photo: Screenshot/United Airlines.

UDN reported that the ministry may consider reducing or waiving landing and airport fees for these airlines.

It cited an unnamed official from the MOTC as saying that the ministry hoped to lead airlines who have acquiesced to Beijing’s demands in the right direction. The official suggested that the airlines could follow United Airlines in dropping country names.

“The main point is that they do not add CN [abbreviation for China] to the end,” the official was quoted as saying.

China’s airline regulator has said the US airlines’ changes were “incomplete” and that it would watch closely before deciding on a course of action.

The airlines’ changes have no effect upon Taiwan’s official status, but are seen as a symbolic move for Beijing which claims sovereignty over the island.

Catherine Lai

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.