US criticizes UN aviation body's Twitter actions

·2 min read
The spread of novel coronavirus in central China has highlighted Taiwan's increased isolation from global bodies (AFP Photo/Sam Yeh)

Washington (AFP) - The US State Department has criticized an "outrageous" decision by a UN aviation body to block Twitter followers who asked why it refused to work with Taiwan.

While the spread of novel coronavirus in central China has sparked alarm throughout Asia, it has also highlighted the self-ruled island's increased isolation from global bodies under pressure from Beijing.

Last month the Twitter account of the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) -- which does not deal with Taipei directly and only recognizes Beijing -- blocked users who suggested it should work with Taiwan.

The state department Saturday called the ICAO's decision to block users, including Taiwan-China academics and analysts, "outrageous, unacceptable, and not befitting of a UN organization."

"Freedom of expression must always supersede the political insecurities of member states," the statement said, calling on the body to reverse the blocking.

Neither the ICAO nor the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) will deal with Taiwan directly and only recognizes Beijing.

That is because the People's Republic of China has since 1971 been the only one of the two allowed a seat at the United Nations.

Taiwan -- which has ten confirmed cases of the virus and is a significant regional air hub -- was often allowed to attend annual assemblies and sideline meetings of such bodies as an observer.

The coronavirus outbreak has prompted calls for international bodies to allow the island of 23 million people to be included.

But when academics and analysts made such suggestions on Twitter, many found themselves blocked by the ICAO, which is currently headed by Fang Liu, a former Civil Aviation of China official.

The ICAO tweeted that the account had "not blocked anyone for asking anything about anywhere".

In a further statement on its website, the body said: "Users who repeatedly base their questions or statements on inaccurate, compromising or offensive material will be deemed irrelevant to constructive discourse and blocked from posting to our accounts."