A total of 83 foreign companies among the Fortune 500 companies listed in 2017 still show Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macao as not being integral to China on their websites, a report showed on Wednesday, drawing strong criticism from industry insiders who called on the firms to “respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The study, titled “Multinational companies’ positions on the one-China principle,” found that out of the 385 foreign firms in the 2017 list, 66 foreign companies, including Facebook and Nike, had listed Taiwan as independent from China on their domestic websites, while 53 foreign companies and two foreign firms also listed either Hong Kong and Macao separately from China. A total of 35 companies have listed both Hong Kong and Taiwan separately from China.
The study also found that US and Japanese companies tend to list Taiwan outside China without any annotation on their websites. Four companies, including Apple Inc, Amazon, Siemens and Manulife Financial all listed Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan separately from China, said the report, which was jointly released by the Beijing-based Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the Internet Development Research Institution at Peking University.
“It’s not merely a business nor a technical issue for those foreign companies to separate Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao from China on their websites. It is a matter of principle involving the one-China principle and China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhi Zhenfeng, one of the main researchers of the study, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Zhi added that some foreign companies may have doubts about the one-China principle under their home country’s political influence. Industry insiders said if they have such a mentality, they will fail not only in China but on the global stage because their behavior will hurt consumers who will vote with their feet.
Chinese authorities could notify those companies and demand they stop listing the information in separate categories if they run businesses in China. “But Chinese law needs to work hard on this matter, because none clarifies details of how to deal with such cases,” Zhi said
The study found that automobile and financial companies in the top 500 had more recognition toward the one-China principle. It is notable that the Ford Motor Company is the only foreign firm among the top 500 to obviously identify Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as integral to China.
The research also noted that the information about the top 500 companies was collected before May 12, 2018, and companies may have since changed their websites.
Last year, a similar case sparked anger when many international airlines referred to Taiwan the same way as China and other countries.
On April 25, 2018, the Civil Aviation Administration of China asked 44 international airlines to modify references to Taiwan on their websites and identify it as part of China, granting carriers a 30-day deadline to comply.
By July 25, 2018, all 44 carriers had changed their references to Taiwan.
“We welcome foreign companies to invest in China. But they should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by Chinese laws, and respect Chinese people’s feelings,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on a news briefing in June.