Air Canada could face a boycott from Taiwanese travellers after the airline joined a growing list of air carriers that have bowed to Chinese pressure by listing the capital of Taiwan as a part of China on its booking website, the president of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce B.C. said Tuesday.
“If they treat the Taiwan people so unfriendly I think most of the people from Taiwan will choose other carriers instead of Air Canada,” said Charles Chang, president of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce in BC.
The Montreal-based airline last June started a route between Vancouver and Taipei.
Chang, who is also general manager of Formosa Travel, said it is ridiculous that Air Canada now refers to Taiwan in this way. He said he plans to send a letter of protest to the airline.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration has demanded the change from 36 foreign airlines, including some American carriers, according to the White House.
Chang believes Air Canada agreed to make the change because the airline is eager to have new routes to China.
Air Canada is in the process of negotiating a joint venture with Air China, which the Canadian airline said was expected to be completed in the spring.
A spokeswoman for Air Canada declined to respond to the threat of a boycott.
“Air Canada’s policy is to comply with all requirements in all worldwide jurisdictions to which we fly,” Isabelle Arthur wrote in an email.
WestJet Airlines said there was no need to make any change because it doesn’t fly to Taiwan or mainland China and the destinations are not searchable on its website.
In making the change, Air Canada has joined a growing list of air carriers and companies that have bowed to Chinese pressure to isolate the self-ruled island.
Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa and British Airways are among the carriers that have joined Air Canada in adding CN to Taipei on its websites.
Qantas Airways, United Airlines, American Airlines and Middle Eastern carriers Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline are among those that make no connection between Taiwan and China.
The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been increasingly assertive about its claims to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province and has threatened use military force to bring under its control.
Delta Air Lines, hotel operator Marriott, fashion brand Zara and other companies have apologized to China for referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet as countries on websites or promotional material.
The U.S. clothing retailer Gap apologized Tuesday for selling T-shirts with a map of China that didn’t include self-ruled Taiwan, the latest example of corporate kowtowing to Beijing.
The company took action after photos began circulating on Chinese social media of a T-shirt showing a map of China which appeared to omit Taiwan, southern Tibet and the disputed South China Sea, the state-owned Global Times said, adding that it drew hundreds of complaints on China’s Weibo microblogging platform.
The White House has condemned China’s efforts to control how U.S. airlines refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, saying the push to make them comply with Chinese standards is “Orwellian nonsense.”
China dismissed that criticism, saying companies operating in the country must respect its sovereignty.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters that China pressuring companies like Gap to change how they refer to Taiwan was “rather unfortunate in terms of cross-strait relations” and would push its residents “further and further away” rather than winning their “hearts and minds.”
With files from The Associated Press