SYDNEY—Australia’s Qantas Airways said it plans to change its website to refer to Taiwan as part of China, not an independent nation, but that it needed extra time to comply with the request from the Chinese regime.
In April, China’s aviation regulator gave three dozen airlines a May 25 deadline to remove references on their websites or in other material that suggest Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are part of countries independent from China, a move described by the United States White House as “Orwellian nonsense.”
Taiwan is a self-ruled island with its own constitution, democratically elected government, and military. The Chinese regime, meanwhile, views the island nation as one of its provinces, that will one day be reunited with the mainland, with military force if necessary. In recent weeks, China has also ramped up its aggressive rhetoric and staged military drills in the Taiwan Strait.
Hong Kong and Macau are former European colonies that have been returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and 1999, respectively, but are run largely autonomously.
After the Chinese regime sent their request, Qantas and several other airlines had requested an extension on the deadline, to decide how they would respond.
At the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meeting held in Sydney on June 4, Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said his company planned to comply with the request, although the company needed extra time.
“Our intention is to meet the requirements. It is just taking time to get there,” Joyce told journalists on the sidelines of the meeting.
The CEO of Qantas’ international unit, Alison Webster, said the decision was not influenced by Qantas’ partnership with China Eastern Airlines Corp., the country’s second largest carrier by passenger numbers.
“I don’t think the relationship makes any difference to how we review our response,” Webster said.
Air Canada, Lufthansa, and British Airways are among the other carriers that have made changes on their websites after China’s request. The Chinese regime said on May 25 that 18 carriers had changed their websites.
American Airlines has not made changes on its website, saying it was following the direction of the U.S. government.
“We received the notice but then the United States has replied and we’re following the direction of the U.S. government,” CEO Doug Parker said in Sydney. “Right now it’s between our government and their government.”
In recent months, several multinational companies have been pressured by the Chinese regime to conform with its territorial claims. Last month, American clothing company Gap apologized to China for selling T-shirts that showed a map of China that did not include Taiwan, though the T-shirts were not on sale in China.
In February, Japanese retailer Muji had to remove maps in its furniture catalog that did not show the Senkaku Islands and several islands in the South China Sea that Beijing has claimed. The Senkaku Islands are controlled by Japan, but China claims it was part of the Chinese empire since ancient times.
By Byron Kaye and Victoria Bryan. Epoch Times staff member Frank Fang contributed to this report.