China gives airlines more time to tweak Taiwan references

All Nippon Airways' (ANA) planes at Haneda airport in Tokyo.
All Nippon Airways' (ANA) planes at Haneda airport in Tokyo. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/HONG KONG • Most of the foreign airlines that agreed to tweak references to Taiwan to reflect the island as part of mainland China have been given more time to comply as Beijing extends a crackdown on companies over its stance on disputed territories.

Air France-KLM, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and Korean Air are among airlines that have made changes to their websites, while those that have received or applied for an extension include United Continental Holdings and ANA Holdings.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said late last Friday that all 44 carriers that were asked to modify their Taiwan references will do so.

Eighteen made the required changes before a May 25 deadline, and the rest asked for extensions and were given until as late as July 25 to comply, the regulator said.

Taiwan has been a repeated flashpoint as President Xi Jinping flexes China's economic clout on the global stage, forcing companies including Gap and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz to apologise for offending the mainland's political sensibilities.

Earlier this month, Gap apologised for and destroyed stocks of a T-shirt featuring a map of China that left out territories claimed by the country, including parts of southern Tibet, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Air carriers from United to ANA received letters from the regulator calling for strict adherence to guidelines on references to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau on websites and promotional materials, a move the White House called "Orwellian nonsense".

  • 44

    Number of carriers that were asked to modify their Taiwan references.

    18

    Airlines that have made the required changes before a May 25 deadline.

The Chinese government considers Taiwan a renegade island to be united with the mainland, while Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions that enjoy greater autonomy. Beijing objects to references indicating that they are independent.

According to an April 25 statement the CAAC sent to more than 40 foreign airlines, carriers are not allowed to place China, Hong Kong and Taiwan on an equal footing, and must refer to "China Taiwan" or the "China Taiwan region".

Maps must display the territories in the same colour as mainland China and airlines cannot place Taiwan in other categories such as South-east Asia, it said.

Failure to comply with the directives 30 days after the letter was sent out would face punishment under Chinese regulations, according to the statement.

The White House said in a May 5 statement that the directive by China is "part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies" and "will be resisted".

ANA confirmed that its Beijing branch received a letter, dated April 25, from the CAAC. The carrier is in negotiations to extend the 30-day deadline, spokesman Yuko Yoshimura said. She declined to specify whether ANA would comply with China's demands.

Japan Airlines also applied for an extension, spokesman Masafumi Okuno said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2018, with the headline 'China gives airlines more time to tweak Taiwan references'. Print Edition | Subscribe