A Taiwan bird protection group said Tuesday it has been kicked out of BirdLife International — a global conservation partnership — after refusing to sign a statement saying it would never advocate for the island’s independence from China.
The incident is the latest illustration of how businesses, charities and other organisations in democratic Taiwan find themselves frozen out of international bodies because of pressure by Beijing.
The Taipei-based Chinese Wild Bird Federation (CWBF) said BirdLife International voted last week to remove it, ending a partnership that had been in place since 1996.
CWBF said it was informed that its Chinese name — which contains Taiwan’s official title the Republic of China — “posed a risk” to the UK-based BirdLife.
The group, which had previously changed its English name to satisfy BirdLife, said it had been willing to accommodate further amendments, but was told to sign a document “formally committing to not promote or advocate the legitimacy of the Republic of China or the independence of Taiwan from China”.
CWBF said it had no stance on the matter, but that signing such a document would itself be a political act.
“Our removal… seems to be an example of politics getting in the way of good conservation,” CWBF said in a statement.
China’s authoritarian leaders view Taiwan as their territory and Beijing has ramped up pressure since voters brought President Tsai Ing-wen to power in 2016.
It has poached seven of its diplomatic allies and kept it locked out of major international bodies such as the World Health Organization.
Major hotel chains and airlines have also been punished by Beijing in recent years for listing Taiwan as separate from the mainland on their websites.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou condemned Beijing for “interfering in and suppressing even conservation activities that contain no political implications.”
BirdLife did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper quoted a BirdLife representative as saying it would be “inappropriate for us to comment publically on matters relating to, and interactions with, partner organisations”.
Richard Foster, a British freelance bird guide working in Taiwan, said he feared other international charity networks may come under similar pressure to eject their Taiwan partners.
“It is very sad that practical, out of the limelight, cross-strait relationships — focused purely on conservation — will be damaged by this geopolitical bullying,” he told AFP.