In its latest models of smartphones, Chinese telecom giant Huawei subtly changed references to Taiwan into “Taiwan, China” in users’ contacts list without notifying the Taipei government. The three models—P30, P30 Pro, and Nova 5T—were subsequently banned in Taiwan.
The National Communications Commission (NCC), an independent statutory agency of Taiwan’s cabinet, the Executive Yuan, released a statement on Nov. 13 addressing the issue.
“To maintain our national dignity, the NCC has taken strict measures, which includes asking the company to restore the original setting,” NCC stated. “Also from today, when applying for licensing approval, all cell phones, tablets, and similar products must use the right presentation in referring to ‘Taiwan’.”
The NCC said Huawei must now reapply for its license to sell those models, adding that any supplier who violates the “Taiwan” rule would lose their certification for allowing their products on the market.
The agency also notified all five telecom carriers in the Taiwan market, as well as Huawei’s Taiwan subsidiary, Xunwei Technologies, that they can no longer sell those three Huawei models. The NCC will notify the carriers when they confirm Huawei has corrected its contacts list settings.
References to the island are a politically sensitive subject, as the Chinese regime has consistently claimed Taiwan as its own territory despite it being a de-facto country with its own democratically-elected government, military, and currency.
On Nov. 14, local media reported that Huawei held a new product launch ceremony in Taipei, in which the smartphones presented only contained references to “Taiwan” as a region.
As of press time, it is unclear whether those three Huawei models already purchased by users in Taiwan still contained references to “Taiwan, China.”
Hsiao Chi-hung, the NCC spokesman, explained on Nov. 14 that Huawei changed the presetting in users’ contacts after it had received certification from NCC for the related three models.
When Huawei applied for the certification, the region name shown was Taiwan. However, after the company received approval, the reference was changed to “Taiwan, China” after Huawei released an upgrade to operating systems on those models.
This is not the first time that Huawei got in trouble for its references to Taiwan. On Aug. 13, Chinese netizens found that in several models of Huawei phones sold in mainland China, when users change the system language from simplified Chinese (the typical format used in mainland China) to traditional Chinese (the typical format used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau), the phones’ listed time zone was changed from “Taipei, China” to “Taipei, Taiwan.”
Netizens berated the company for referencing Taiwan as an independent entity instead of a part of China.
Huawei upgraded its operating system shortly after the internet uproar.
A Political Issue
Meanwhile, multinational firms have been pressured to toe Beijing’s line on Taiwan’s sovereignty, in order to continue doing business in mainland China. The most recent case is that of Italian luxury carmaker Maserati.
On Oct. 23, Maserati announced it ended its sponsorship of the Golden Horse Awards, a prestigious awards show for Chinese-language films that is often referred to as the Chinese Oscars, held annually in Taiwan.
The Chinese regime banned mainland Chinese films, actors, and directors from participating in the award show this year.
In its statement published on the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo, the Italian carmaker said it respects the Chinese regime’s territorial integrity, history, and culture, and “firmly upholds the one-China principle.”
On August 12, more than seven international brands published apologies in Chinese about their products related to Taiwan and Hong Kong, after Chinese netizens left critical comments about those brands.
American fashion company Calvin Klein apologized for categorizing Hong Kong as a country on its U.S. website. Hong Kong is a former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. “Calvin Klein fully respects and supports the integrity of China’s sovereignty and territory,” it said in a statement.
French luxury fashion company Givenchy apologized because one of its T-shirts listed 60 cities names on the back, in which Taipei was marked belonging to Taiwan. Hong Kong was also marked as a separate entity from China.
American Luxury brand Coach also apologized for listing Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate entities on a T-shirt and said it would change the design immediately. It also apologize for listing Macau and Taiwan as separate regions on in its U.S. website.
Austrian jewelry company Swarovski, Italian luxury fashion company Versace, Japanese sports equipment company Asics, and American skincare brand Fresh also published similar apologies.