Taiwan protests German foreign ministry's use of 'white flag' as representation on official site

Germany said the Taiwanese flag was never on the website to begin with.

Kayla Wong | July 13, 2020, 08:46 PM

A plain white rectangle listed under Taiwan on the website of the German Federal Foreign Office has sparked a number of questions.

The white, blank spaces used as graphics to represent Taiwan are as follows:

Screengrab via German Federal Foreign Office

Screengrab via German Federal Foreign Office

"Not surprising" for Germany does not recognise Taiwan as a country

During a press conference on Friday, July 10, a German reporter asked if the white rectangular image under Taiwan can be interpreted as Germany raising the white flag in surrender to China, Apple Daily (Taiwan) reported.

In response, Rainer Breul, the spokesperson for the German Federal Foreign Office, said it was simply "a current change" on the website.

When the reported pressed on with his question, the spokesperson reiterated Germany's position on the "One China" policy, saying the change is "not surprising" for Germany has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and that Taiwan is not a country they recognise.

He said: "When we were introducing the various regions of the world, we made a distinction between Taiwan and countries that we have diplomatic relations with."

But the reporter continued asking why the flag of Palestine was featured on the site -- under Palestinian Territories -- when Palestine is "not a country".

Palestine is not recognised as a state by countries such as the United States, Israel, and Germany.

The spokesperson responded by saying more information will be supplied later.

Germany: Taiwanese flag was never on the site

In response to claims that the change was made due to Chinese pressure, the German Federal Foreign Office said on Monday, July 13, that the claim was false, since the Taiwanese flag was never put up on the site in the first place, Yahoo! (Taiwan) reported.

They further said the blank image was due to slow management of the site's technical aspect, and that they hope to replace the image with Taiwanese-related symbols or imagery in the future.

They also asserted that their decision not to display the Taiwanese flag is in line with the United States' policy of not doing so as well.

Taiwan responds

According to Yahoo! (Taiwan), Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) released a statement rejecting Germany's justification of not being able to display the Taiwanese flag as it stands by the "One China" policy.

The statement argued that the difference between pages introducing Taiwan and those of other countries or regions will only cause undue misunderstandings.

Taiwan's MOFA emphasised that it has already strongly conveyed Taiwan's position to the Taipei Representative Office in Berlin, and hopes that Germany would have a more "balanced" approach in adjusting its website design, in order to prevent "any discriminatory misunderstandings".

No diplomatic relations between Germany and Taiwan

Only 15 states, including the Vatican, have formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC) government in Taiwan currently.

Germany and Taiwan have no official diplomatic relations with each other, but they maintain representative and trade offices on both sides.

Flags have political significance, and the use of the Taiwanese flag on an official German government website might be taken by China as a political statement.

Considering Beijing's unwavering stance on Taiwan being part of its territory, perhaps the decision not to display a Taiwanese flag was taken to avoid possible backlash.

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Top image via German Federal Foreign Office