TAIPEI (Reuters) – Being confused for China between the coronavirus epidemic and Beijing’s attempts to assert sovereignty, Taiwan said on Wednesday it would redesign its passport to give the island’s name more prominence.
Taiwan has complained during the outbreak that its citizens have encountered problems entering other countries, as Taiwan’s passport has the word “Republic of China”, its formal name, written in large English font at the top , With “Taiwan” printed on the bottom.
The new passport, expected to enter circulation in January, removes the English word “Republic of China”, although the name will remain in Chinese letters, and the word “Taiwan” in English is extended.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that new passports were needed to prevent wrongdoing for Chinese citizens, especially since the epidemic has started in many countries with phased entry.
“Since the onset of the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak this year our people have hoped that we can give more visibility to Taiwan’s visibility, thinking of avoiding people from mistake,” Wu told reporters.
China claims democratic Taiwan as its sovereign territory, and says it has the right to speak for the island internationally, a situation that has pushed it strongly during the epidemic, especially at the World Health Organization.
Taipei says that this has confused countries and led to the same restrictions on Taiwanese travelers as the Chinese, and reduced Taiwan’s own successful efforts to control the virus and the number of cases.
Taiwan has been arguing over who it is for years and what exactly it should have a relationship with China – including the island’s name. But the epidemic has brought the issue back into the spotlight.
The government is considering a name change – or at least a complete change – for Taiwan’s largest carrier, China Airlines2610.TW), Again to avoid confusion with China.
Reporting by Ann Wang and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry