TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday (Nov. 1) apparently bowed to pressure from China and pulled a tweet that had included the national flag of Taiwan among those of other countries he thanked for their assistance following last week’s devasting magnitude 7.0 earthquake.
At 2:51 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 30), a powerful earthquake struck in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey’s Izmir Province, with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) rating it at a magnitude of 7.0 with a focal depth of 10 kilometers. By Sunday, 62 people had been confirmed dead and 920 reported injured by the temblor, while 103 had been rescued from the debris.
On Saturday (Oct. 31), Erdogan posted a series of three tweets, each including the flags of 100 nations and international organizations that had provided assistance and words of support to his country. The third tweet included a Taiwanese flag at the center of the bottom row and a message in Turkish and English that read: “Many thanks from the Republic of Turkey to all friendly nations and international organizations for their good wishes and statements of support following the earthquake in Izmir.”
Taiwanese-Turkish TV show host Ugur Rifat Karlova, better known as Wu Feng (吳鳳), on Sunday posted a screenshot of the tweet on his official Facebook fan page and added the Mandarin word for “thanks” (謝謝) to the image. However, later on Sunday, the tweet that included that Taiwanese flag was suddenly deleted, and all that remained was a message which read “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said it was notified by its representative office in Turkey that Chinese authorities had pressured the Turkish government to take down the tweet showing Taiwan’s banner and that Erdogan had complied. In the original image, the flag was included along with those of countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Senegal, and Iraq and organizations such as the UNHCR and IFRC.
In a new, edited version, other countries have been added, such as Cuba, Norway, and Sierra Leone, but Taiwan’s flag is noticeably absent. Followers of Wu Feng’s feed soon noticed that the post had been taken down but emphasized that the message of thanks had already been received and that the Taiwanese are still grateful for Turkey’s help during the 1999 Jiji earthquake.
When President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) first took office in 2016, she refused to recognize the so-called “1992 Consensus,” acknowledging only that the 1992 Taiwan-China talks were a “historical fact.” In response, China has been seeking to punish Taiwan by excluding it from international organizations, luring away diplomatic allies, and intimidating government bodies, corporations, and universities into de-listing Taiwan as a country.
MOFA stated when the earthquake occurred in Turkey, Taiwan immediately expressed its concern and condolences to the Turkish government and people. In response to the deletion, MOFA stated that the international humanitarian spirit of helping those in need has been “unreasonably suppressed by China.”
The ministry condemned China’s actions and added that Taiwan “will not be deterred by this and will continue to resolutely provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the international community, including Turkey, to demonstrate Taiwan’s goodwill.”