Qantas is poised to list Taiwan as part of China on its websites, sparking concern Tuesday from Australia’s foreign minister who 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’s 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 Australia’s national carrier.
Qantas chief executive Alan 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.
“We have some complexity to work through. This is not just a Qantas airline, it’s a Qantas Group piece that needs to be adjusted,” Qantas International chief Alison Webster added.
She said the carrier had been given an extension to make the changes.
Qantas’ decision to change its websites comes as relations between Canberra and Beijing have soured as Australia introduces a raft of reforms to espionage and foreign interference legislation, with China singled out as a focus of concern.
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”.
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 its national sovereignty.