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Taiwan incensed by "Chinese" tag

Thousands of people demonstrated against renaming Taiwan last month Keystone

A decision by the government to refer to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei” on Swiss residency permits has sparked an outcry from Taiwanese officials.

This content was published on October 11, 2003 - 13:49

The Swiss foreign ministry has denied that the move is politically motivated, insisting that it is purely administrative.

Taiwan has been calling for independence from China since it was formed in 1949, when two million Chinese fled to the island after the communist revolution.

However, China insists that the island is part of its territory, and will remain so.

The decision by the foreign and justice ministries to standardise references to the island as “Chinese Taipei” on cantonal residency permits has prompted criticism from Taiwanese officials.

They claim the name wrongly implies that the island is part of China.

“We object to this name because people will be misled that we have some connection with China,” says Rex Wang, a representative of Taiwan’s Cultural and Economic Delegation of Taipei in Switzerland, the territory’s official representation in Bern.

“Biologically we are the same as the Chinese, but politically and culturally we are not.”

No consultation

Wang added that the Taiwanese authorities were not consulted about the change.

Wang has met with Swiss foreign ministry officials to voice his concerns, and letters of protest have also been sent to the government from other Taiwanese groups.

Alessandro Delprete, a spokesman for the Swiss foreign ministry, declined to comment on whether Bern had come under pressure from China. But he insisted the decision was not politically motivated.

“This measure is administrative,” he told swissinfo. “The decision was taken because we needed to unify the different practises of the cantons, which use different names.”

Delprete added that “Chinese Taipei” was also used by the International Olympic Committee and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

In recent times, Switzerland has been anxious to maintain good relations with both China and Taiwan.

Switzerland was one of the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China and has never officially recognised the territory as a country.

However, Switzerland is keen to maintain economic ties with Taiwan, which has a strong commercial and industrial presence on the global market, particularly in the technological sector.

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin and Joanne Shields

In brief

Taiwan says the term “Chinese Taipei” suggests it is part of China, a relationship it has disputed since the territory was formed in 1949.

It also claims it was not consulted by the Swiss government about the decision.

The Swiss foreign ministry maintains the decision to change the name was purely administrative.

Switzerland has never recognised Taiwan as a country.

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