Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s leading airlines, changed “Taiwan” to “China Taiwan” on their Chinese-language websites.
The change, effective on June 12, supposedly makes the description “easy to understand and acceptable” for customers of both airlines.
“We made the judgement [to change the name] while consulting and reporting to the transport ministry and foreign ministry,” AFP quoted a JAL spokesperson as saying. “We chose a description that is easy to understand and acceptable for users of our websites.”
An ANA spokesperson also said that the change makes the description “easy to understand and acceptable for customers when they use our websites.” He added, “We do not mean any particular group of customers here but mean all customers.”
In April, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration asked 36 international airlines to follow Beijing’s standard of describing Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as Chinese dependents, setting a timeline for compliance and threatening that deferral will be referred to “relevant cyber-security authorities” for punishment. In the U.S., United Airlines and American Airlines received this notice, according to Foreign Policy.
However, the description “Taiwan” remains on JAL and ANA’s websites in Japanese and other languages.
According to Formosa English News, Andrew Lee, spokesman of Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, protested the name change,while David Lee, secretary-general of the National Security Council, suggested Taiwanese citizens to boycott the airlines.
“I hope my words will remind the Japanese government that they should pay attention to this matter. They shouldn’t let any third-party country influence the operations of their own country’s corporations, and this includes erroneously telling them what another country should be called on their websites,” Andrew Lee said.
Meanwhile, David Lee told the Financial Times, “We will tell our people: ‘Those are the airlines that caved in to China, it is your choice [whether to use them].’”
The issue stems from a longstanding non-recognition of sovereignty between Beijing and Taipei, both of which consider itself as the one true China. This was previously observed in January, when Beijing shut down Marriott’s website after it listed Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet as “countries.”
It is unclear if the change has anything to do with the US-North Korea summit that happened on June 12. The JAL spokesperson simply said that their “preparations were done by then.”