Qantas defends listing Taiwan as part of China
Qantas chief Alan Joyce on Tuesday defended the carrier’s move to list Taiwan as part of China on its websites after Australia’s foreign minister said private firms must be able to conduct business “free from political pressure”.
The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a notice to 36 foreign airlines in April, asking them to comply with Beijing’s standards of referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese territories.
Despite Taiwan having been governed separately for around seven decades, with its own government and own military, China considers the democratic island a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold, by force if necessary.
In late May, AFP found several foreign airlines were still listing Taiwan as a country, including Qantas.
Joyce told reporters at an annual meeting of global airlines in Sydney that “our intention is to meet the requirements”, but there were some technical delays.
He defended the Australian carrier’s decision to comply with Beijing’s demands, stressing that “it’s not airlines that define what countries are, it’s governments”.
“And at the end of the day, the Australians, like a lot of countries, have a ‘One China’ policy,” Joyce added.
“So we’re not doing anything different than (what) the Australian government is doing in that case and I think that’s the case for a lot of airlines.”
Qantas International chief Alison Webster said the carrier had been given an extension to make the changes.
“We have some complexity to work through,” she said.
“The IT and technology that underpins our websites and the connectivity takes time for us to get to grips with changes that need to be put into the programming stages of that.”
Qantas’ decision comes amid souring Australia-China relations.
Canberra has introduced a raft of reforms to espionage and foreign interference legislation, with Beijing singled out as a focus of concern.
– ‘Difficult and sensitive’ –
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday acknowledged that the website was a matter for Qantas, but said: “Private companies should be free to conduct their usual business operations free from political pressure of governments.”
Asked about Bishop’s remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “I don’t know what is implied by that.”
“There is only one China in the world. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau are all part of China,” she said, adding that this was an “objective fact” accepted by the international community.
“Therefore China’s request is legitimate. Any business that wants to operate in China should abide by Chinese laws and respect the ‘One China’ principle. This is a basic requirement.”
But Taipei hit back, saying it is lodging a protest with Qantas.
“We call on all governments and international firms to uphold their dignity and principles, using moral courage to resist China’s unreasonable demands,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Tuesday, calling the island a “sovereign country”.
Air Canada is one of the airlines that has made the changes, and its chief executive Calin Rovinescu said the carrier was “not a government” and was “not making any kind of a political statement”.
“We do, like so many of the other airlines, take the same view that when we operate into the various jurisdictions, we’ll comply with the requirements of the various jurisdictions,” he added.
“As difficult and sensitive a decision as this is, our view is that we would comply with the Chinese government requirement.”
Beijing has in recent months renewed its push to force Western companies to comply with its naming standards — which Washington has labelled “Orwellian” — or risk losing access to China’s huge market.
Clothing supplier Gap and hotel chain Marriott have also come under pressure to amend websites or products that were perceived as slights to China’s sovereignty.
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