Even though a call by the government on citizens to refuse to board flights by airlines which belittle Taiwan might have limited effect, it does reflect a tough attitude and tells each country in the world about Taiwan’s stance, thus forming international pressure from public opinion on China.
During the past two months, China has been using threats to demand airlines alter their websites to change the name “Taiwan” to “Taiwan, China.” After the news became public, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the airlines through Taiwan’s representative offices overseas, but it was still difficult to redress the situation, as the Taiwan market is too small, and the airlines first considered the size of the Chinese market.
When National Security Council Secretary General David Lee (李大維) was interviewed by the Financial Times of London, he seemed to imply that Taiwan would encourage its citizens to refuse to board flights of airlines considering the island as part of China, and that Taiwan would not sit idly by and do nothing.
Earlier, Taiwanese residents of Canada took the initiative to protest outside Air Canada offices after it changed Taiwan’s name. Lee not only channeled the anger felt by the Taiwanese public, but also clearly expressed the stance of Taiwan’s government, signaling that it did not excluded taking legal action against the airlines involved.
It is absolutely necessary for Taiwan to exert pressure on the airlines as the White House already issued a statement criticizing the demands for a name change as “Orwellian nonsense.” The association of United States airlines said it was discussing its next step with the country’s government.
In addition, the European Union called on China to respect the freedom of enterprise and said that as it supported Taiwan’s democracy, it would continue to develop relations with the island.
As the U.S. and the E.U. speak up on behalf of Taiwan, if the island does not take any further action, why would other countries follow suit? How can they continue to help Taiwan and speak out on its behalf? The Taiwan government’s statement does not only amount to a protest against China, but is also designed to make the airlines feel the pressure. Even more important is to let countries friendly to Taiwan and international organizations know that Taiwan will continue to speak up together.
If China doesn’t heed Taiwan and the airlines are not worried about the Taiwanese market, still, if international opinion targets China and the airlines, Taiwan will have an opportunity to correct its name and receive the necessary respect and fair treatment it deserves.