Taiwan withdraws from international tourism exhibition after Chinese interference

Chinese authorities arbitrarily change Taiwan Tourism Bureau name, prompting Taiwan to pull out of event

PATA Chinese Taipei at the 2019 PATA Gold Awards event. (PATA Chinese Taipei website)

PATA Chinese Taipei at the 2019 PATA Gold Awards event. (PATA Chinese Taipei website)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan Tourism Bureau confirmed Thursday (Oct. 8) the nation had withdrawn from this year’s Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart exhibition due to Chinese interference.

Chou Ting-chang (周廷彰), deputy director of the Tourism Bureau, stated that since PATA was sponsored this year by the Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism Bureau of Leshan City in Sichuan, China, Taiwan’s name was changed to the “Taiwan Strait Tourism Association” — without authorization or prior notice. Chou stated the bureau did not accept the name change and protested several times, with bureau director Chang Hsi-tsung (張錫聰) writing a letter to the Chinese sponsor.

Huang Shifang (黃勢芳), head of the international sector of the Tourism Bureau, said that Taiwan usually participates in the annual exhibition under the name “Taiwan Tourism Bureau.” Huang said that after director Zhang wrote a letter to protest, PATA informed the main reason for the change in designation was due to China.

The organization also wrote a letter of apology stating that it would strive to allow Taiwan to participate in the exhibition under the name of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, CNA reported. However, the name was never changed back, prompting the nation to withdraw from the event.

"The loss is one less opportunity (for Taiwan) to appear on the international stage," Huang stated, adding the dignity of the country cannot be sacrificed. Due to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the event was held as a virtual fair from Sept. 23-27.

PATA is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1951 that promotes tourism in the Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan is one of the association’s founding members.