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Taiwanese Tourists Face Entry Denials in Cuba Amid China’s Shadow

Recently, there have been cases of Taiwanese tourists being denied entry to Cuba. This has raised suspicions within Taiwan that China may exert pressure on the situation.

대만 여권 / 사진=대만 외교부
Taiwanese passport / Photo=Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan

Taiwanese media, including the Minshin Daily, have reported on an incident that occurred on January 25, where a Taiwanese tourist attempting to enter Cuba with a Taiwanese passport was denied entry and subsequently deported. The reasons cited for this action included “China’s non-recognition of Taiwan as a separate country.”

This incident occurred on December 21, 2023, when a Taiwanese tourist, en route to Cuba from Mexico, was ultimately turned away and sent back to Mexico after enduring a lengthy 25-hour wait at the airport. The Cuban immigration officer purportedly informed the traveler, “You cannot gain entry with a Taiwanese passport; only a Chinese passport is accepted.” The affected tourist expressed their frustration, revealing, “I incurred a loss of approximately 2 million Taiwanese dollars (equivalent to around $71,000), and I’m uncertain about any future visits to Cuba.”

Havana, Varadero, Cuba / Photo=Cuban Tourism Bureau

On December 23, 2023, a similar incident occurred involving the family of Taiwanese expatriates and permanent residents of Canada. The Yan family had arrived at Havana Airport in Cuba and prepared for a 9-day vacation, but they, too, faced the distressing situation of being denied entry by immigration officials. Their passports were confiscated, with officials citing the reason that “China does not recognize Taiwan as a separate nation.” After a wait exceeding 10 hours, all five members of the Yan family were subsequently deported to Canada the following morning.

쿠바 국기 / 사진=미 국무부
Cuban flag / Photo=U.S. Department of State

The father of the family protested the decision, raising his voice and questioning, “I know people who traveled to Cuba with Taiwanese passports in May and July 2023, so why are we being denied entry?” In response, the Cuban immigration officer explained, “This is a recent policy change. Given the current strained relations between Taiwan and China, we cannot accept Taiwanese passports,” firmly standing by the decision to deny them entry.

쿠바 아바나의 호세 마르티 국제공항 / 사진=호세 마르티 국제공항 웹사이트
Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba / Photo=Jose Marti International Airport website

The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared no restrictions on Taiwanese passports in Cuba. They urged Taiwanese citizens to delay their travels to Cuba until further information is confirmed. They also advised them to check the immigration regulations through the Cuban government’s website or airlines.

대만 국기 '청천백일만지홍기' / 사진=중화민국총통부
Taiwan’s flag, the Blue Sky, the White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth. / Photo = Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)

In Taiwan, public opinion suggests that this is another instance of China’s attempts to suppress Taiwan and that it’s not surprising. A representative from a Taiwanese travel agency expressed hope that this was a misunderstanding that occurred during the Christmas holiday period. They assured that if Taiwanese citizens cannot travel to Cuba, they will either refund their money or replace it with another product of the customer’s choice, according to relevant laws.

중국 톈안먼(천안문)에서 중국 국기가 올라가고 있다. / 사진=중국 정부
The Chinese flag is raised at Tiananmen Square in China. / Photo = Chinese Government

Chinese media outlets reported that Cuba adheres to the “One China” principle and does not recognize the so-called “Taiwanese passport.” They also reported that some Taiwanese have expressed dissatisfaction with their government, speculating that this issue might be created for the upcoming elections. Chinese praised Cuba’s action with comments like “Well done” and “Impressive. I commend Cuba.”

대만 네티즌이 사용한 '외교부(外交部)' 단어를 모자이크 처리한 것으로 보이는 중국 환구시보 SNS(웨이보) / 사진=웨이보
A post on China’s Weibo social media platform appears to have censored the term Ministry of Foreign Affairs used by Taiwanese. / Photo = Weibo

Since its inception in November 2022, Indonesia’s Electronic Customs Declaration (ECD) system has faced criticism for lacking an option specifically designating Taiwan or the Republic of China in the nationality input field. Consequently, travelers have been compelled to choose between selecting China or opting for the “Other” category and manually entering their nationality. Given the recent incident involving the denial of entry to Taiwanese tourists in Cuba, this issue has gained attention in Taiwan, leading to concerns that “all Taiwanese individuals entering Indonesia are being compelled to identify as Chinese.”

In response to these concerns, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that they had approached the Indonesian government requesting improvements to rectify this situation.

By. Yoo Jun

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