‘Taiwan is Taiwan’: China name dispute moves from birds to climate change

Published September 28, 2020
In this file photo, an audience waves Taiwanese flags during the National Day celebrations in Taipei on October 10, 2018. — Reuters
In this file photo, an audience waves Taiwanese flags during the National Day celebrations in Taipei on October 10, 2018. — Reuters

TAIPEI: The dispute over international organisations referring to Taiwan as Chinese has moved from wild bird conservation to climate change, after a global alliance of mayors began listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its website.

China has ramped up pressure on international groups and companies to refer to democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as being part of China, to the anger of Taiwan’s government and many of its people.

Beijing views the island as merely a wayward Chinese province.

This month a Taiwan bird conservation body said it had been expelled from a partnership with a British-based wildlife charity after it demanded the Taiwan group change its name and sign documents stating it did not support Taiwan’s independence.

Late on Saturday, the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung’s government said the website of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy had begun listing Taiwan member cities like itself as part of China.

On Sunday, Taiwan’s government reacted with anger.

“Taiwan is Taiwan. China is China. Taiwan is not a city of China’s. If there is incorrect usage we think this is extremely improper,” Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters.

The Kaohsiung city government circulated to reporters a draft of a joint letter from six Taiwanese mayors to the Global Covenant asking it to fix the name issue, or they would withdraw from the group.

In an emailed statement, the Global Covenant’s secretariat said it was an apolitical organisation promoting climate action.

“Since our inception, we have designated cities in accordance with international practices and this has not changed since. We have received and are evaluating the request from the six mayors,” it said, without elaborating.

The Global Covenant says its mission is to “galvanise climate and energy action across cities worldwide”, representing a population of over 800 million. The only Chinese city it lists as a member is Hong Kong.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020

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