A group of Taiwanese-Canadians gathered in front of Air Canada’s headquarters in Montreal on Thursday to protest the airline’s move to list Taiwan as part of China on its website.
The airline is one of several other airlines around the world that followed a demand by the Chinese communist regime to remove any references on their websites or promotional material that imply Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao are not part of China.
“This is an assault on Canadian dignity and Canadian sovereignty,” said Michael Stainton, president of the Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada (THRAC). The protest, attended by people from Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa, was organized by the Taiwanese Canadian Association (TCA), and supported by several other groups including the THRAC.
The decision by @AirCanada to buckle under pressure from #Beijing & designate #Taiwan as part of #China on its website is unacceptable to the government & people of Taiwan. We urge the carrier to reverse this change & respect Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity. pic.twitter.com/zWCKAOBPfK
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) ?? (@MOFA_Taiwan) May 15, 2018
“They try to extend the Chinese so-called law…into Canada, and forcing a Canadian corporation to obey their orders outside of China,” Stainton said.
Beijing considers Taiwan as one of China’s provinces that should be under the control of the Chinese communist regime. Taiwan, a self-ruled island, considers itself independent of the regime.
Several other airlines and companies, including airlines in the United States, Australia, and Japan, have received notice from Beijing to heed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP’s) line on Taiwan, risking great financial risk if they don’t comply.
The White House has condemned Beijing’s move in a statement issued on May 6, calling it “Orwellian nonsense,” and “part of a growing trend by the Chinese Communist Party to impose its political views on American citizens and private companies.”
“The United States strongly objects to China’s attempts to compel private firms to use specific language of a political nature in their publicly available content,” reads a statement issued by the White House.
The protesters in Montreal asked that the Canadian government “stop pretending that this is a purely commercial matter and stand up to China,” and for Air Canada to resist China’s demands.
“We have to defend Canada’s values like freedom, free speech, and also democracy and human rights. That’s the Canadian values,” said Edward Chung, a convener for the Association of Taiwanese Organizations in Toronto, one the groups joining the Thursday protest.
The issue also drew the ire of Taiwan’s foreign ministry, which berated Air Canada for bowing to Beijing’s pressure on the issue of Taiwan.
The Epoch Times approached Air Canada for comments but no response was provided by press time. An Air Canada spokesperson stated previously that the company’s policy “is to comply with all requirements in all worldwide jurisdictions to which we fly,” according to The Canadian Press.
Stainton says the federal government should step in so companies feel more supported in resisting Beijing’s pressure.
Last week, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop voiced her objection to China for pressuring Australian airline Qantas Airways to list Taiwan as part of China.
“If I was Mr. [Calin] Rovinescu, the [CEO] of Air Canada, and the Canadian government wasn’t standing behind me and saying ‘no, don’t do this, we will support you,’ then I would probably do the same thing,” Stainton said.
A number of airline companies in the United States and Japan have resisted Beijing’s pressure to list Taiwan as part of China’s territory.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page, Stainton’s organization THRAC asks Air Canada to follow the lead of these companies.
“We realize that this issue is larger than Air Canada, so we urge you to use the leadership skills of your CEO and your board to organize an alliance of all affected airlines to stand together against China’s illegal pretensions.”
With reporting by Yi Ke and Tanya Du.