The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has refused to invite Taiwan to attend its upcoming triennial assembly, sparking a strong protest by Taipei on Friday, which called the decision "extremely unfair to Taiwan and a major loss to global aviation safety."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs applied earlier this year for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in the assembly, which will be held at ICAO’s headquarters in Montreal from Sept. 27-Oct. 7. Several countries, including the U.S., have lobbied on Taiwan’s behalf for it to be given at least observer status.

Every year, the Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR) handles 1.5 million flights that carry a total of 58 million passengers.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) confirmed this morning that Taiwan has not been invited. It is very likely that the decision was the result of pressure from Beijing.

Signs emerged last month that China would attempt to block Taiwan's efforts to join. Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said then that arrangements for Taiwan’s participation should be made with respect to the “one China” principle and the “political basis” of the so-called 1992 consensus, which the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration has refused to recognize.

It does not help Taiwan's case that on Aug. 1 last year, Fang Liu (柳芳) of China began a three-year term as ICAO Secretary General. Prior to joining ICAO, where she served in a number of positions before becoming head of the organization, Liu, an air safety expert, was at the General Administration of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). A number of Taiwanese analysts have expressed fears that Fang’s appointment would increase China’s ability to influence ICAO’s decisions regarding Taiwan’s participation.

The decision yet again demonstrates China's ability to coerce international institutions into making decisions that go against their very mandate, putting politics before public health and safety.

▶︎ See also: "China the Twelve Year Old"
▶︎ See also: "‘One China’ or Air Safety?"

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang