Action on China airline pressure needs more discussion: lawmaker

Taipei, Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (???) on Wednesday urged the government to think long and hard before pursuing legal action to counter Beijing's pressure on airlines that designate Taiwan part of China or such efforts could prove "expensive and time consuming."

Taiwan is considering taking action to counter Beijing's pressure on airlines, including legal action and encouraging a boycott of carriers that comply, according to a Financial Times report Monday.

"We will tell our people: 'Those are the airlines that caved in to China, it is your choice [whether to use them],'" David Lee (???), secretary-general of Taiwan's National Security Council (NSC), was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Lee said that although pursuing legal action against the companies involved would be a complex process and "may take two to three years" to obtain a ruling, "it is a signal we are fighting back, that we won't just sit idle here," the Financial Times reported.

Asked to comment, Lo, a member of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, told CNA that the government needs to think through the the possible scenarios should it decide to pursue legal action over the matter.

"The government should first clarify who suffers most from Beijing's act to pressure foreign airlines to describe Taiwan as part of China, and study where and when to file a possible legal suit accordingly," said Lo, an assistant professor at Taipei-based Soochow University's Department of Political Science.

Whether the legal suit should be filed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) where Taiwan is a member or in the countries where these airliners are located needs to be considered, he said.

The government should also consider what kind of decision it has a chance of winning, before deciding whether to take legal action or not.

"Or the decision will be very expensive and time consuming and to no avail," he said.

The name changes have come in the wake of a letter sent by China's Civil Aviation Administration in late April, instructing 36 international airlines to identify Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as part of China.

Several airlines, including Air Canada and Lufthansa, have already complied, referring to Taiwanese destinations such as Taipei as being in Taiwan, China or Taiwan, CN.

A source familiar with international litigation told CNA Wednesday that currently no Taiwanese airliners have been pressured by China into changing the country's designation, making it difficult for Taiwan to take legal action at the WTO on the grounds that Taiwanese customers' interests have been jeopardized.

It is also highly unlikely that Taiwan could ask other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, to file a law suit on its behalf since both countries have airliners that chose to change Taiwan's designation, the source noted.

Also, whether Taiwanese customers' interests are being harmed is debatable since the name change has not yet caused financial losses to airline customers, the source said.

All these factors make it very difficult for the government to take legal action in the case, he added.

Meanwhile, asked to comment, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (???) told CNA the government has not made a final decision on whether to take legal action over the matter.

"Such measures are still being discussed and evaluated, we will make the final decision as to if and when to take action by making the national interest our top priority," he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel