Top Canada university says it will no longer call Taiwan part of China

Taiwan is now pressing UBC to correct its name in student enrolment reports. (Twitter pic/University of British Columbia)

TAIPEI: A top Canadian university will stop referring in reports to Taiwan as part of China, following complaints from Taiwan’s government in a small diplomatic success for the Chinese-claimed island that faces growing Chinese pressure internationally.

China has ramped up a campaign to get foreign companies and organisations to identify democratically ruled Taiwan as part of China, and often to directly name it as a Chinese province.

Taiwan strongly objects to this, saying that it has never been part of the People’s Republic of China and that Beijing has no authority over the island.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its de facto consulate in Vancouver had asked the University of British Columbia (UBC) not to “cave to Chinese pressure” and stop referring to the island as “Taiwan (Province of China)” on its website when listing the origin of overseas students.

Kurt Heinrich, senior director of Media Relations at the university, said in an emailed statement to Reuters that they did not take a stand on political issues and were aware of political sensitivities about Taiwan-China relations.

He said the university had adopted International Organisation for Standardisation (Iso) data standards for country codes, which “use United Nations sources to define the names of countries”.

The United Nations considers Taiwan a Chinese province. Canada, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

“Moving forward, UBC will only refer to Taiwan without any additional descriptors in future reports,” Heinrich said.

“It is important to be clear that the utilisation of Iso data standards is not indicative of the university taking a position regarding Taiwan.”

Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said on Tuesday they were pleased with the response, but that they were pressing the university to correct Taiwan’s name in the current student enrolment report.

In March, Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University backed down on how it refers to Taiwan on a map detailing the spread of the new coronavirus after Taiwan protested at its inclusion of the island as part of China.