Taiwan introduced its new and redesigned passport cover page on Monday which gives greater prominence to the island’s name, aiming to avoid confusion with China.
This comes about amid the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing’s increasing efforts to assert its sovereignty over the democratic island.
Existing Taiwanese passports have “Republic of China”, its formal name, written in large English letters at the top, with “Taiwan” printed at the bottom, creating confusion internationally according to the government.
During the early days of the pandemic Taiwan says some of its citizens were confused with Chinese nationals and on occasion unfairly subject to the same Covid-19-related entry bans when the disease was actually well under control in Taiwan though not in China.
The new passport enlarges the word “Taiwan” in English, reducing “Republic of China” in Chinese and English around the national emblem.
Bureau of Consular Affairs Director General Phoebe Yeh told Reuters, “The purpose is to increase the visibility of Taiwan so that our people will not be mistakenly identified as coming from China when they travel abroad.”
One of the first to apply for the new passport, Chen Li-ting, said, “It’s fantastic. I thought it would happen sooner or later. In the future Republic of China will perhaps disappear.”
China, referring to the new passports, has said it does not matter what “petty moves” Taiwan makes, it would not change the fact that the island is an inseparable part of China.
China claims democratic Taiwan as its sovereign territory, and says only it has the right to speak for the island internationally, a position it has pushed strongly during the pandemic, especially at the World Health Organization.
On Saturday, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lifted long-standing restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials, a move that angered Beijing.