Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has expressed concern at Qantas’ decision to change its website to refer to Taiwan as a Chinese territory after pressure from Beijing.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce revealed on Monday that the airline is in the process of making the change after China’s aviation regulator issued a May 25 deadline on the move to more than 40 airlines.
Ms Bishop has reiterated her concerns about Beijing’s request for airlines to no longer refer to Taiwan as an independent country, but noted Qantas was free to make its own corporate decisions.
“Private companies should be free to conduct their usual business operations free from political pressure of governments,” Ms Bishop said on Tuesday.
“The decision of how Qantas structures its website is a matter for the company.”
In April, China’s aviation regulator ordered airlines operating in China to refer to self-ruled Taiwan as “Taiwan China” on its website, or risk legal action.
While many airlines quickly complied, Qantas and some American companies, including Delta and United Airlines, missed the deadline.
Qantas was given an extension to make the changes, which have been blasted by the White House as “Orwellian nonsense”.
“Our intention is to meet the requirements. It’s just taking time to get there,” Mr Joyce told reporters at the International Air Transport Association annual meeting in Sydney.
The head of Qantas International, Alison Webster, said making the changes to the Qantas website was complex.
“This is not just a Qantas Airline, it’s a Qantas Group piece that needs to be adjusted – the IT and technology that underpins our websites and the connectivity takes time for us to get to grips with changes that need to be put into the programming stages of that,” she said.
Beijing has also pressured other multinational companies to change the way they refer to Taiwan, which is governed separately from China.
Qantas argues the changes are in line with the Australian government’s One China Policy.