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Engel & McCaul Lead Bipartisan Warning About Coronavirus Risks Tied to Taiwan's Exclusion from Aviation Coordinating Body

Engel & McCaul Lead Bipartisan Warning about Coronavirus Risks Tied to Taiwan’s Exclusion from Aviation Coordinating Body

Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Michael McCaul, the Committee’s Ranking Member, sounded a bipartisan warning that Taiwan’s exclusion from the U.N. agency overseeing aviation standards and practices could worsen the spread of the coronavirus. In a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) President, the lawmakers pointed to air travel as a major factor in the spread of pandemics and stressed the risks of keeping Taiwan out of the organization as ICAO addresses this challenge. The members also voiced concern about ICAO’s decision to block social media accounts that raise similar concerns over Taiwan’s exclusion.

“Taiwan is home to the world’s eleventh busiest airport. The ongoing battle against the coronavirus further highlights the importance of including Taiwan in conversations regarding information-sharing and logistical planning, as air travel is a major factor in the spread of global pandemics. Excluding Taiwan from these important discussions recklessly jeopardizes the health and safety of the 23 million people on Taiwan and beyond,” wrote the lawmakers.

“It is also troubling that ICAO attempts to justify its censorship of criticism and concerns by claiming that individuals are ‘misusing [ICAO’s] channels to spread misinformation’ and spreading ‘spam.’ We understand from ICAO’s social media rules page that the organization will remove ‘irrelevant, compromising and offensive material.’ However, we have difficulty comprehending why ICAO deems public concerns regarding health and safety implications of Taiwan’s exclusion during a virus outbreak irrelevant, compromising, or offensive.”

The letter was also signed by Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

 

Dear Mr. Sciacchitano:

We write to express our concern regarding the continued exclusion of Taiwan from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), particularly in light of the coronavirus outbreak. We are also deeply troubled by ICAO’s decision to block social media accounts of those criticizing ICAO for excluding Taiwan as a member. Taiwan’s exclusion continues to endanger global health and aviation safety and attempts to silence those who point out this threat violate ICAO’s stated principles of fairness, inclusion, and transparency.

There has been long-standing bipartisan, bicameral concern over the safety and health implications of excluding Taiwan from international organizations such as ICAO. Taiwan is home to the world’s eleventh busiest airport. The ongoing battle against the coronavirus further highlights the importance of including Taiwan in conversations regarding information-sharing and logistical planning, as air travel is a major factor in the spread of global pandemics. Excluding Taiwan from these important discussions recklessly jeopardizes the health and safety of the 23 million people on Taiwan and beyond.

It is also troubling that ICAO attempts to justify its censorship of criticism and concerns by claiming that individuals are “misusing [ICAO’s] channels to spread misinformation” and spreading “spam.” We understand from ICAO’s social media rules page that the organization will remove “irrelevant, compromising and offensive material.” However, we have difficulty comprehending why ICAO deems public concerns regarding health and safety implications of Taiwan’s exclusion during a virus outbreak irrelevant, compromising, or offensive. Moreover, we find the insinuation that such concerns are “misinformation” or “spam” unacceptable. This censorship of public debate is not limited to Taiwan and public health matters, but also reportedly extends to social media accounts that raised concerns about aviation emissions. Such handling of criticism raises concerns about ICAO’s supposed impartiality.

Global health and aviation safety must not be political issues. We urge ICAO to include Taiwan as an observer to the organization and call upon ICAO to cease its current policy of censoring social media accounts that raise legitimate concerns regarding Taiwan’s exclusion from ICAO and other issues. We do not find the reckless endangerment of Taiwan’s population or Taiwan’s significance to regional and global heath to be irrelevant issues, and characterization of such concerns—including those expressed by Members of Congress who provide unparalleled support to ICAO’s mission—as “misinformation” is unacceptable. We therefore also urge ICAO to reexamine how it implements its social media policies to ensure they are applied objectively and free from political manipulation.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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