China has hit back at US claims a push by Beijing to stop foreign airlines referring to Taiwan as a separate state is “Orwellian nonsense”.
The Trump administration made the comment in a bluntly-worded statement responding to letters sent to more than 30 foreign airlines by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
The letters, one sent in January and second sent recently, demanded they remove references on websites or in other material that suggested Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau were independent of the Asian superpower.
In a letter to United cited by The Washington Post, the CAAC demanded the US carrier change its website to label Taiwan “Chinese Taiwan” or “Taiwan: province/ region of China”.
It also demanded that United must use the same color on its maps for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
Failure to comply would see the company’s violation reported to the National Cyber Information Office and other law enforcement agencies.
The White House was quick to respond.
“This is Orwellian nonsense and part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Sanders said the Trump administration was calling on Beijing “to stop threatening and coercing American carriers and citizens”.
A statement by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang on Sunday said the US comments would not change the fact there was only one China in the world and “Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions are an inalienable part of China’s territory”.
“China will continue to handle its relations with other countries in accordance with the one-China principle,’’ Geng said. “In the meantime, we have to point out that foreign enterprises operating in China should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s law and respect the national sentiment of the Chinese people.”
Although former colonies Hong Kong and Macau are recognized as special administrative regions belonging to China, Taiwan is a democratic, self-ruled state.
Nonetheless, Beijing remains adamant it will be one day reunited with the mainland.
US carriers have been investing in their Chinese counterparts and are keen to get a foothold in the burgeoning Chinese markets.
Delta Air Lines apologized in January for making “an inadvertent error” by listing Taiwan and Tibet, about which China is also sensitive, as separate countries.
Australian carrier Qantas, which also received the letters, had been referring to Taipei as part of Taiwan and was still doing so Monday in the drop-down menu in its booking engine. It was also referring to Hong Kong as part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and had a similar reference for Macau.
The airline made changes after the initial letter in January that are understood to be accordance with Australian government policy.
It has now received a second, more specific letter and a spokeswoman said it was being reviewed.