On April 25th, 2018, China sent a letter to 44 foreign airlines, demanding that they change all references for “Taipei, Taiwan” to “Taipei, China.” As of July 25th, 37 carriers have followed Beijing’s order. Seven additional carriers made compromises by either using “Chinese Taipei” or leaving blank Taiwan’s country name altogether.
On the surface, China’s ridiculous demand for name change as regards to Taiwan seems to only serve the purpose of frustrating the Taiwanese public and displeasing the international community that sympathizes with Taiwan. We have no choice but to accept the situation or to boycott airlines that have agreed to Beijing’s demands. However, this fiasco has revealed a greater issue: China is overstepping its jurisdiction and expanding its power beyond its borders.
In March 2017, Taiwanese citizen and human rights activist Li Ming-che (Lee Ming-che) was disappeared and arbitrarily arrested by Chinese authorities as he entered China. Months later, he was sentenced to five-year in prison for “subversion of state power” for advocating for democracy and human rights in online messaging groups while he was in Taiwan. In recent years, we have seen a noticeable increase of arrests of foreign nationals by Chinese authorities. This includes arresting booksellers of duo and foreign nationalities in Bangkok and Hong Kong and bringing them to China.
On the increase is also the number Taiwanese nationals arrested for fraud in a third country but sent to China for trial at the request of Beijing. In at least one case, a Taiwanese was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison in China for alleged crimes conducted outside of China. UN Human Rights experts have also expressed concerns on possible torture or death penalty for these Taiwanese citizens.
This should serve as a major warning for civil society and human rights activists in Taiwan and around the globe. China has been gaining influence over foreign governments and multinational corporations, successfully winning their cooperation. So, what happens the day that China demands that a rights activist or Taiwanese citizen be sent to China for trial and judgement because they violated China’s so-called “subversion of state” or “anti-secession” laws? Will the foreign governments, corporations, or airlines, comply? If foreign entities become the henchmen of China’s autocratic and dictatorial regime, who does the civil society point to for accountability? Where can the civil society turn to for help?
On November 6th, China will accept the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations. China's human rights record has been worsening in the past years. Beijing has even completely disregarded its guarantees of “one country, two systems” to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, freedom of expression, freedom of political participation, freedom of association and assembly, as well as judicial independence, have been deteriorating. Even the administration of exit and entry are now subject to Beijing’s intervention and control. Furthermore, China has spared no efforts in diminishing Taiwan’s international standing, threatening foreign governments to sever ties with Taiwan, and even directly infringing on the freedom of speech, civil liberty, and right to fair trial for Taiwanese nationals.
We hereby urge governments and enterprises around the world to uphold your conscience, honor basic international human rights law, and not be henchmen to China’s autocratic and dictatorial regime. At China’s UPR review in November, we also call upon governments and the international community to voice your firm criticism against China’s continuous blatant overreach of jurisdiction and unjust persecution of human rights defenders, and demand improvements from Beijing.
- Taiwan Association for Human Rights
- Judicial Reform Foundation
- Covenants Watch
- Lee Ming-che Rescue Team
- Taiwan International Medical Alliance
- Cosmopolitan Culture Action Taichung
- Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan
- Dr. Chen Wen-Chen Memorial Foundation
- Keep Taiwan Free
- Youth Synergy Taiwan Foundation
- Taiwan Forever Association, TFA
- Congress Investigation Corps
- Tsai Jui-Yueh Culture Foundation
- Tool Youth Organization
- Taiwan Labour Front
- Taiwan Health Right Initiative
- Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty
- Economic Democracy Union
- The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
- Taiwan Association of University Professors
- Independent Youth Front
- Humanistic Education Foundation
- Swedish-Taiwanese Friendship Association
- Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
- Programme Against Custodial Torture and Impunity (PACTI) of India
- Surigao Youth Convergence
- Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights
- NEW ZEALAND NATIONAL REFUGEE NETWORK INC.
- Korean House for International Solidarity
- The Centre for Human Rights and Development
- Globe International, Mongolian
- Naiker Associates, Australia