ontroversy is swirling around Chinese state media reports that Taiwanese tourists stuck at a Japanese airport were only allowed to board evacuation buses dispatched by the Chinese embassy on one condition… that they declare themselves “Chinese.”
Flooding from Typhoon Jebi left thousands of travelers stranded at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport this week, including 750 Chinese tourists and 500 from Taiwan. According to a report from the state-run Global Times tabloid, the Chinese embassy in Japan dispatched a fleet of buses to the airport in order to evacuate Chinese travelers. The buses also allowed Taiwanese tourists on board, though there was, allegedly, a catch, as one Chinese witness was quoted as describing:
“A few Taiwanese asked if they could board the bus provided by the Chinese embassy for evacuation. [The Chinese people] all said, ‘Sure, if you identify yourself as Chinese, follow your home country.’”
This report has been refuted by at least two Taiwanese travelers who took the buses. The Taiwan News cites one user of the Taiwanese online forum PTT as saying that he was told that the buses had been sent by the embassy to pick up “citizens of China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.”
He said that once he boarded the bus, Chinese embassy staff asked how many passengers from Hong Kong, Macao, or Taiwan there were on board, however, he adds that at no time did anyone ask him to declare himself Chinese.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Apply Daily talked to one female Taiwanese tourist who says that she was invited onto one of the buses by a Chinese couple. The woman said that she had been worried that embassy staff would check her passport and start to raise a ruckus, shouting out propaganda slogans.
However, she says that nothing of that sort actually happened on the way back to Osaka.
While the Chinese state media reports now appear doubtful at best, they initially seemed quite plausible as China has seriously stepped up its political pressure against Taiwan this year, forcing numerous foreign companies and airlines to choose sides, demanding that remove any reference which might imply that Taiwan was an independent country from their websites or promotional materials.