Taiwan Pulls Out of Tourism Trade Event Over Name Change

taiwan-tourists.jpg Tourists pose for photos in front of Taiwan's National Palace Museum in Taipei, March 13, 2019.

Taiwan's Tourism Bureau has withdrawn from an international trade trade show after the host organization changed its name on the official website without prior notification.

Deputy director-general Chou Ting-chang said the bureau had withdrawn from the online event organized by the Pacific Asian Travel Association (PATA) after its name was changed to the "Taiwan Strait Tourism Association."

PATA made no response to a letter protesting the name change, and so the bureau withdrew from the event.

Officials were later told that the fair was being entirely sponsored by the Leshan Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism Bureau in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan.

The Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, which was a founding member of PATA in 1951 as the Republic of China (Taiwan).

But Beijing has recently stepped up demands that the democratic island "unify" with China, refusing to rule out a military invasion if Taiwan doesn't comply.

"We can't compromise when it comes to our national sovereignty," communications minister Lin Chia-lung told journalists. "They may try to change our name, but they can't erase Taiwan's existence."

Taiwan's spokesman on cross-straits affairs, Chiu Chui-cheng, said Taiwan is a sovereign state, and has a right to take part in international events and organizations.

The island was recently excluded from taking part in the World Health Organization (WHO) and its assembly as an observer, despite an exemplary record in handling the coronavirus pandemic.

"Its participation ... is being obstructed and prevented through political pressure from the Chinese Communist Party," Chiu said. "Now, this [influence] has extended into the realm of tourism."

"This will cause a backlash among the people of Taiwan, and will do little to improve [relations with China]," he said. "It will push us further and further apart."

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Liu Shih-fang blamed China's Wolf Warrior style of aggressive diplomacy for the pressure on PATA, which has never expressed a problem with Taiwan's Tourism Bureau taking part in the past.

"China has always tried to shut Taiwan out of the international arena, whether officially or unofficially," Liu told RFA. "But it's not going to stop Taiwan."

"Taiwan has made a huge success of handling the pandemic, and can hold its head high internationally," he said. "This is in stark contrast to the way China allowed the coronavirus to spread from Wuhan to everywhere else in the world."

"If this sort of thing keeps happening, it will only anger the people of Taiwan further, and entrench the idea of separation from China," he said.

Reported by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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