In its latest models of smartphones, Chinese telecom giant Huawei subtly changed references to Taiwan into “Taiwan, China” in users’ contacts list without notifying the Taipei government. The three models—P30, P30 Pro, and Nova 5T—were subsequently banned in Taiwan.
The National Communications Commission (NCC), an independent statutory agency of Taiwan’s cabinet, the Executive Yuan, released a statement on Nov. 13 addressing the issue.
“To maintain our national dignity, the NCC has taken strict measures, which includes asking the company to restore the original setting,” NCC stated. “Also from today, when applying for licensing approval, all cell phones, tablets, and similar products must use the right presentation in referring to ‘Taiwan’.”
The NCC said Huawei must now reapply for its license to sell those models, adding that any supplier who violates the “Taiwan” rule would lose their certification for allowing their products on the market.
The agency also notified all five telecom carriers in the Taiwan market, as well as Huawei’s Taiwan subsidiary, Xunwei Technologies, that they can no longer sell those three Huawei models. The NCC will notify the carriers when they confirm Huawei has corrected its contacts list settings.
References to the island are a politically sensitive subject, as the Chinese regime has consistently claimed Taiwan as its own territory despite it being a de-facto country with its own democratically-elected government, military, and currency.
On Nov. 14, local media reported that Huawei held a new product launch ceremony in Taipei, in which the smartphones presented only contained references to “Taiwan” as a region.
As of press time, it is unclear whether those three Huawei models already purchased by users in Taiwan still contained references to “Taiwan, China.”
Hsiao Chi-hung, the NCC spokesman, explained on Nov. 14 that Huawei changed the presetting in users’ contacts after it had received certification from NCC for the related three models.
When Huawei applied for the certification, the region name shown was Taiwan. However, after the company received approval, the reference was changed to “Taiwan, China” after Huawei released an upgrade to operating systems on those models.
This is not the first time that Huawei got in trouble for its references to Taiwan. On Aug. 13, Chinese netizens found that in several models of Huawei phones sold in mainland China, when users change the system language from simplified Chinese (the typical format used in mainland China) to traditional Chinese (the typical format used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau), the phones’ listed time zone was changed from “Taipei, China” to “Taipei, Taiwan.”
Netizens berated the company for referencing Taiwan as an independent entity instead of a part of China.
Huawei upgraded its operating system shortly after the internet uproar.
A Political Issue