Garmin declares ‘affection for Taiwan’ despite criticism

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The cooperation Garmin established by Taiwanese gave a apology for listing Taiwan as a country on the officail website. Garmin stated the cooperation holds no specific political stance. (Image taken from garmin.com)

Taipei, April 2 (CNA) GPS navigation developer Garmin answered criticisms by angry netizens in Taiwan Monday over an apology it offered to China for listing Taiwan as a country, with a declaration that it holds no specific political stance on the issue.

Garmin has drawn protests from hundreds of Taiwanese Internet users since it released a statement Friday on its Chinese website extending an apology for running a web page that includes Taiwan in the “country” category of a selection scroll.

In the statement, the company said that with the apology, it acceded to China’s position on sovereignty and territory, and engaged in an overall review of the websites of its branch companies in China and other Asian areas in January “to ensure that the contents of those websites meet our stance.”

For that oversight and mistake “we feel sincerely sorry,” Garmin said in its apology.

The statement triggered rough feedback in the Taiwan market, where hundreds of people left protest messages on Garmin’s Facebook fan page. As of Monday, there had been more than 480 such posts, including one that reads: “this statement has truly broken Taiwanese peoples’ hearts.”

“It’s perfectly justified that businesses want to earn money, but the money should be earned with dignity and style,” the post says, waving goodbye to Garmin, which it described as a “Chinese brand.”

In response, Garmin Taiwan said that the business group has no specific political stance.

It stated that Garmin is made up of branch companies in more than 30 areas around the world, and that the companies run independently and adhere to local laws.

Garmin has been in Taiwan for 28 years, where it engages in research and development, manufacturing and sales. “It holds a deep feeling for the land,” it said in a statement.

Now on Garmin’s Chinese website, Taiwan is listed in the “region” category that also includes China, Hong Kong, Japan and India.

Garmin was founded as “ProNav” in 1989 by American Gary Burrell and Min Kao (高民環), a Taiwan-born American engineer, in Lenexa in the U.S. state of Kansas. In 1991, the company was renamed “Garmin,” a portmanteau of its two founders’ names.

Most products developed and produced by Garmin — known for its specialization in GPS technology development for use in automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor, and sport activities and utilities — are made in Taiwan, with factories located in New Taipei’s Linkou and Xizhi, and Zhongli in Taoyuan.

Garmin marketing director in Asia Lin Meng-yuan (林孟垣) said that in an era that has seen massive outflow of the manufacturing sector to mainland China, “Garmin did not leave. Instead it has become a vital livelihood for more than 5,000 Taiwanese employees.”

(By Chiang Ming-yen and Elizabeth Hsu)