Congressman questions U.S. removal of Taiwan’s flag from websites

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The U.S. State Department deleting Taiwan's flag last September, and then some other government agencies followed suit later in the year. (Photo courtesy of NOWnews, 2018.3.27)

Washington, March 26 (CNA) The United States is actually diminishing Taiwan’s international status by taking down its flag from U.S. government websites, U.S. Representative Ted Yoho argued Sunday.

In a feature titled “The Marginalization of Taiwan Must End” in the American international affairs magazine National Interest, Yoho called what may seem a trivial move to remove Taiwan’s flag from the websites detrimental to Taiwan and the U.S.

It started with the U.S. State Department deleting Taiwan’s flag last September, and then some other government agencies followed suit later in the year, according to Yoho.

He contended that the flag removal was actually not meaningless; it “appears to be the result of a change in how the State Department handles some of the gray area in the U.S. conception of ‘One China.'”

While government officials have said the removal is not reflective of a new policy but rather consistent with a longstanding practice of not displaying flags of countries that the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with, Yoho dismissed the claim as false.

He said the move was actually the result of a new version of a memo titled “Guidelines on Relations with Taiwan” issued in 2015, “which included a new rule prohibiting the display of Taiwan ‘symbols of sovereignty’ on U.S. government websites or online accounts.”

This rule in effect hurts “Taiwan, the U.S. national interest, and the values we share,” Yoho wrote.

For Taiwan, it minimizes the gray area in which the country currently exists, because the People’s Republic of China is the sole government of “China” that the U.S. and most countries in the world recognize, he wrote.

What is at stake, Yoho cautioned, is an “important and longstanding partner of the United States” and “an exemplar of democracy and human rights in a region short on both.”

The representative from Florida said that instead of minimizing this gray area, the U.S. should be maximizing it, but formalizing the removal of Taiwan’s symbols of sovereignty not only does the opposite but sets “a dangerous precedent that others can be pressured to follow.”

While the U.S. has been removing Taiwan’s flag from its websites, many countries and companies have been changing Taiwan’s designation on theirs.

Most recently, the Swedish Tax Agency on Feb. 28 announced that Taiwan would be listed as a province of China (Taiwan, Provins i Kina), instead of the Republic of China (Republiken Kina, Taiwan) on its website, starting March 12.

Meanwhile, Malaysia-based airline company AirAsia recently chose to list Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” on its scroll-down menus.

(By Kuan-lin Liu and Chiang Chin-yeh)