Taiwanese tourists stranded in Japan by Typhoon Jebi were asked to state whether they consider themselves Chinese before being allowed evacuation help through China’s embassy, state media reported, in an apparent attempt to reinforce Beijing’s claim over Taiwan.
Over 3,000 tourists – including around 750 Chinese and 500 Taiwanese – have been stranded since Tuesday at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, where all flights in the coming days have been cancelled after it was forced to close due to flooding.
While Japan has arranged bus and boat evacuations to Osaka’s main train stations for tourists regardless of nationality, the Chinese embassy has provided buses exclusively for Chinese tourists, according to Chinese state tabloid Global Times on Thursday morning.
The newspaper seized on Chinese tourists’ claims that they told tourists from Taiwan to board buses only if they identified as Chinese. Beijing regards the self-ruled island as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
“A few Taiwanese asked if they could board the bus provided by the Chinese embassy for evacuation,” a Chinese witness in the airport was quoted as saying. “[The Chinese people] all said, ‘Sure, if you identify yourself as Chinese, follow your home country.’”
Taipei and Beijing issue separate passports for their citizens and have separate consular offices, having been ruled by different governments for decades.
Over the past year, Beijing has stepped up pressure on foreign airlines and companies, as well as countries around the world, to refer to Taiwan as part of China.
Another Chinese witness told Chinese state news outlet Guancha.cn: “After asking, some Taiwanese tourists queued for the buses like the Chinese tourists.”
A staff member at the Taiwanese trade office in Osaka told the South China Morning Post that Taipei has not been providing transport for Taiwanese people.
“What we can do now is advise them to transit to other airports or railway stations so they can leave as soon as possible,” said the employee.
“But we are not aware that any Taiwanese boarded the Chinese bus.”
Taiwan newspaper Liberty Times, also quoting Taiwanese trade office staff, reported that no buses could get into the airport except the airport’s own vehicles, to maintain order.
At least 11 people are dead and more than 600 others injured following the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years. Kansai is the country’s third-largest airport and a major hub for western Japan, which has been particularly badly hit by the storm.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Japan’s Kansai International Airport set to be closed for a week in wake of deadly Typhoon Jebi
- Domestic flights at Kansai airport to resume on Friday raising hopes for international passengers stranded after Typhoon Jebi
- Typhoon Jebi: death toll rises as speed boats evacuate thousands stranded at Japan’s Kansai airport