Taiwan on Monday released a new passport that puts diplomatic turmoil in the concept of social distancing amid the pandemic.
The official name of the self-governing island, the Republic of China, has been reduced, although it remains on the cover with Chinese characters. The words “Taiwanese passport” are written in bold. The government said at the start of the pandemic that it was all an attempt to reduce confusion about its citizens traveling during the coronavirus outbreak and to differentiate itself from people coming from mainland China, as many countries rushed to ban entry. Chinese travelers.
The passport exchange is the latest volley of tense relations between the island and China, which considers Taiwan its territory and has long warned that it must eventually unite with the mainland.
The revelation comes days before United States Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Kraft travels to Taipei for a three-day visit to counter China’s attempts in recent years to isolate Taiwan on the world stage and support what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo describes as an attempt to show “what a free China can achieve.”
China’s state-run Global Times published an article threatening an avalanche from Beijing in response. “Chinese People’s Liberation Army fighters will immediately fly over the island of Taiwan, declaring Beijing’s sovereignty over the island in an unprecedented way,” the newspaper said.
Last weekend, Mr Pompeo also announced that the United States would ease its restrictions on interaction between US officials and their counterparts in Taiwan as the Trump administration sought to draw a tighter line against Beijing in recent days.
Relations between Taipei and Beijing are steadily deteriorating, with China regularly sending military planes into Taiwan’s airspace and using a torrent of threatening language. In October, when Taiwan hosted the holiday to celebrate its national day in Fiji, two diplomats from mainland China appeared at the invitation uninvited and tried to photograph guests. A fistfight ensued.
In 2002, Taiwan added the words “Issued in Taiwan” to its passport. A few years ago, some Taiwanese citizens began changing their passports by adding “Republic of Taiwan” stickers, angering China. In July, Taiwanese lawmakers passed a resolution amending the document again, urging the transport ministry to consider renaming China’s state-owned airline to China.
Last year, Taiwan’s New Power Party launched an unofficial online competition to remake the passport cover, and people unveiled designs with maps of the island, a monk in a canoe and a bird balancing a bubble on his head.
In the end, the authorities chose a traditional design, as the “Republic of China” was reduced to a small part of its original size and enveloped an icon of the sun.
Taiwan took a look at the new passport design in September, months after the first appearance of the coronavirus.
“Our people continued to hope that we could give more importance to Taiwan’s visibility by avoiding people mistakenly thinking they were from China,” said then-Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chuning said at the time that “whatever the tricks,” the Taiwanese authorities cannot “change the fact that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory.”
As of Monday morning, the Bureau of Consular Affairs in the capital Taipei said it had received more than 700 applications for the new passport, compared to a typical daily average of 1,000, Reuters reported. A new version of the electronic passport has been released, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.
Claire Fu contributed to the reporting