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Premier offers support for China Airlines name change

ROC Central News Agency

04/14/2020 05:13 PM

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Tuesday said he supports changing the name of national carrier China Airlines (CAL) to make clear that the airline represents Taiwan, though he noted the complexities involved in such a change mean it could likely only be accomplished in the long term.

Su addressed the issue following recent media coverage of an online petition to change the company's name to "Taiwan Airlines," which had gathered 47,000 signatures as of Tuesday.

Critics of the current name and the government are also worried it could undercut the goodwill Taiwan is hoping to gain by donating millions of surgical face masks to other countries, fearing it could mislead people overseas into thinking the donations are from China.

Speaking to reporters at the Legislative Yuan, Su said he sent word to CAL on Monday that he approved of its labeling the containers carrying the masks with the Taiwan flag and the slogan "Taiwan Can Help."

But he also criticized the state-controlled airline for banners on the containers showing its name, which he said was "self-promotion" and a possible source of confusion.

In addition to removing the banners, Su said he suggested using "more symbols of Taiwan," either on the aircraft livery or elsewhere, and cited as an example the way Taiwan's international representative offices use the word "Taiwan" in parentheses after the country's official name, "Republic of China."

In the short term, when countries are expressing praise and appreciation to Taiwan for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that the world know the difference between Taiwan and China, Su said.

In the long term, he conceded, the process of changing the company's name would be complex, with possible repercussions to its freedoms of the air privileges, but would nevertheless be "worth the effort."

Su said he had faced a similar issue during his first term as premier from 2006-2007, when the government successfully renamed Taoyuan International Airport.

Prior to 2006, the airport was called Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, in honor of former President Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正), whose legacy is widely reviled by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

When asked about the issue on Tuesday, Presidential Office spokesperson Xavier Chang (張惇涵) confirmed that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications had requested that CAL "add symbols representing Taiwan" to its aircraft for future international donations of medical supplies in order to avoid confusion.

As for changing the airline's name, Chang said that because of its complexity, the issue required "continued discussion" by the Cabinet, legislature and other stakeholders.

For its part, CAL issued a short statement Tuesday pledging to adhere to the government's requests, and said it would no longer engage in commercial promotion on the government's medical equipment donations.

The statement did not make reference to the name change proposal.

(By Chen Chun-hua and Matthew Mazzetta)


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