Why are travelers furious over Lufthansa’s Taiwan scandal?


Lufthansa may have just lost themselves some customers. Source: John Cobb / Unsplash

LAST MONTH, netizens took to the internet to denounce the changes made by German airline carrier, Lufthansa, which categorized Taiwan under China on the booking page.

The first complaint was jotted in an online letter by the Taiwan National Women’s Salon, which is now being circulated by trusty netizens from far and wide to “politely and formally” inform the German airline of the error, Taiwan News reported.

Following the situation, people of the internet have been urging Taiwan nationals and other travelers to boycott the airline after Lufthansa caved in to the pressure put on them by the Chinese government to list Taiwan in China.

However, it seems Lufthansa was not alone in making these pressurized changes.

British Airways also succumbed to the pressures of the Chinese government and listed Taiwan as China, despite Taiwan having a democratic nation status.

The changes were enforced after the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) ordered all foreign airlines operating flights to China to conduct a full review of their client information to ensure they do not breach Chinese Laws.

As part of this roundup, the CAAC also summoned representatives of 25 foreign airlines operating in China and requested the companies remove any references that suggest China and Taiwan are separate.

A few significant differences between China and Taiwan are pointed out in the letter, that Taiwan is not and has never been administered by Communist Party of China.

However, Taiwanese nationals are fighting back at this latest attempt to enforce the “One China” policy as the letter of complaint also reminds the guilty airlines and the world wide web of Taiwan’s democratic system and its remarkable press freedom, finally declaring that Taiwan “is not a subordinate to the Chinese state”.

The letter then closed with, “Taiwan is not China”. Plain and simple.

A brief history of the China and Taiwan relations

Way back in 1683, China’s Qing Dynasty annexed Taiwan, which has formally been separated by tribal kingdoms and European settlers. It wasn’t until 1895 that China ceded Taiwan among a few other territories to Japan after losing the first Sino-Japanese war.

In 1942, during the second World War, the Chinese Kuomintang government relinquished all treaties with Japan.

China demanded for Taiwan to be returned to the Chinese rule.

As of yet on the timeline, the Taiwanese people have had no say over what territory their nation belongs to.

At the end of the second World War, US placed Taiwan under Chinese administrative control, which is when many Taiwanese became infuriated by the way leaders were controlling their country and began protests. Under the Chinese Kuomintang government, a large number of protestors were killed and thousands more banned from entering political activity.

In 1949, Mao Zedong (commonly known as Chairman Mao) won political victory for his communist party at the end of the Chinese civil war. This led to over two million mainland refugees and the Kuomintang government fleeing to Taiwan.

In 1971, the UN recognized communist China as the sole government of both China and Taiwan. Through the next three decades, threats, declarations of invasions, and missile testings caused the Taiwanese and Chinese relations to deteriorate significantly.

In the 1980s, China put forward a formula, known as “one country, two systems”, under which Taiwan would be given significant autonomy if it accepted Chinese reunification.

The offer was rejected.

However, in the early 2000s, Taiwan lifted trade bans with China, reducing the cost of living in Taiwan. In 2003, Taiwan approved a bill to allow a referendum to declare independence if China attacks.

In January 2005, airlines opened routes between Taiwan and mainland China for the first time since 1949. However, relations didn’t stay peachy for long Taiwan condemned a new Chinese law giving Beijing the legal right to use force should Taipei declare formal independence.

Fast forward to 2008, the highest ranking Chinese official visited Taiwan to hold talks about how to improve relations.

Later in 2008, China gifted two giant pandas to further help relations. And apparently, the cuddly cuties were the breakthrough the two states needed.

2009 saw China expecting investment from Taiwan and the two leaders, Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao, exchanged the first direct messages in more than 60 years.

A year later, China and Taiwan signed a free trade pact, which is monument for both nations. However, the good relations weren’t to last.

In 2013, a major diplomatic row erupted between Taiwan and Philippines after Filipino coastguards killed a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters.

Also in 2013, Taiwan banned its senior government officials from higher studies in mainland China, citing national security reasons.

Moving into 2016, the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen won the presidential election and took office in May of that year.

Since taking office, Tsai Ing-wen has been urging China and Taiwan to drop historical and political baggage to seek a breakthrough in relations. However, China views Taiwan as a province that has gone wayward and needs bringing back inline.

While Taiwan and most of the world views it as an independent nation comprising of its own constitution, democratically-elected leaders, and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces, China refuses to loosen its grip over the island nation.