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Australia says China pressured Qantas over Taiwan status

June 5, 2018

The Australian government voiced concerns over Qantas Airways' decision to comply with a request from China to list Taiwan as a Chinese territory. The move has come amid a souring of ties between Canberra and Beijing.

Airplanes with the Qantas Airlines logo wait on the tarmac
Image: S. Barbour/Getty Images

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop criticized China for unfairly pressuring national carrier Qantas Airways for change the way it refers to Taiwan on its website.

"Private companies should be free to conduct their usual business operations free from political pressure of governments," she said.

Defense Minister Marise Payne and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack backed Bishop's comments, saying companies should be free to make their own.

On Monday, Qantas said it decided to comply with Beijing's request to remove information on their site that suggests Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are countries that are independent from China. Instead, they must refer to them as Chinese territories.

In April, China's Civil Aviation Administration issued a notice to 36 foreign airlines asking them to comply with Beijing's naming standards, or risk losing access to China's market.

Although Taiwan has its own government and military, Beijing considers the island to be a renegade part of its territory.

Strained ties

Relations between Canberra and Beijing have soured in recent months over diplomatic disputes and concerns about China's influence in Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull noted there were "disturbing reports of Chinese meddling" in Australian politics when he introduced legislation to ban offshore political donations late last year.

China lodged a formal diplomatic protest over the comments and denied the allegations.

Tensions also arose last month when Australia's largest listed winemaker, Treasury Wine Estates, said it experienced delays at Chinese customs. The Australian government also said "four or five" other wine exporters faced similar challenges from China.

rs/    (AFP, Reuters)

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