Taiwan is up in arms over the decision by Japan’s two major airlines to bow to Beijing’s demands and change their descriptions of the island to “Chinese Taiwan” on their Chinese websites.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the moves by Japan Airlines Co. (JAL) and All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) on June 18.

JAL and ANA said they were simply following orders after the Chinese government demanded that airlines all over the world must recognize Taiwan as a part of China.

The Japanese airlines both said they introduced the description of “Chinese Taiwan” on June 12 in areas of their websites such as the search function for destinations in simplified Chinese characters for customers in China and in traditional Chinese characters for those in Hong Kong.

However, on the airlines’ Japanese and English sites, the island is still listed simply as “Taiwan.” "Taiwan" is also unchanged for the Chinese site used by those in Taiwan.

On April 25, the Chinese government sent letters to 44 airlines around the world demanding they describe Taiwan in line with its “one China” policy. The government stated clearly that it would punish the companies for violating Chinese law if they did not comply with the instruction.

By the end of May, 18 airlines including Air Canada had modified their webpages, while JAL and ANA were considering how to deal with the matter.

Explaining their decisions to fall into line, the two Japanese airlines said that their description of Taiwan was meant to be easily understood and accepted by customers in China and in Taiwan.

China has strengthened diplomatic pressure on countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, with the aim of ending those relations. The demand to change the description of Taiwan is likely a part of that pressure.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also appealed to the international community on June 18 to stand firm against pressure from the Chinese government.

“We want them to exercise morality and courage to refuse China’s unreasonable demand,” the ministry said.

The Japanese government expressed concerns about the matter to China through its diplomatic channel by June 18.

According to sources related to the government, Japan’s stance is that how to deal with the matter is up to the airlines, but that, “China’s way of threatening private companies by setting up penalties is not favorable.”

(This article was written by Hideshi Nishimoto in Taipei and Tamiyuki Kihara in Tokyo)