Taiwan has filed a lawsuit against the International Organization for Standardization, widely known as ISO,
over its reference to the country as "Taiwan, Province of China" instead of "Republic of China (Taiwan)," an official said on October 1.
According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang
Chien-yeh, the government filed the suit with a court in Geneva July
20 after the ISO failed to respond positively to its repeated
requests to rectify Taiwan's designation in the ISO 3166 country
Wang said the lawsuit was filed in the name of the government of
the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Claiming that the ISO is in violation of Taiwan's name rights by
using the "Taiwan, Province of China" designation in its country codes
list, the lawsuit demands the ISO stop using such a derogative
reference and instead refer to Taiwan with its correct formal name
"Republic of China (Taiwan)."
Wang further said that using the title "Republic of China
(Taiwan) " not only complies with legal provisions and political
reality but also meets the demands of various domestic political
It marked the first time that Taiwan has taken a legal action
against a major international organization over the name issue. The
Geneva court has accepted the suit and the development of the issue
will hinge on the court's judgment.
Over the past two years, Wang said, the country's representative
office in Geneva has negotiated with the ISO authorities on many
occasions and expressed the government's solemn stance on the issue
by retaining lawyers to send letters of protest to the ISO
Regrettably, Wang said, all such efforts have not received any
goodwill response from the ISO. As the ISO 3166 list has been widely
used in the international community, cases of international
organizations and multinational business groups referring to the
country as "Taiwan, Province of China" have become increasingly
"Such a development has not only invited misunderstanding and
confusion for Taiwan but has also undermined Taiwan's national status
and interests," Wang lamented.
Up until now, Wang said, the MOFA and the country's
representative offices abroad have dealt with the issue on a
case-by-case basis, asking each international organization or private
corporation that refers to the country as "Taiwan, Province of China" to
correct the mistake.
However, such an approach cannot possibly resolve the issue once
and for all, Wang said, adding that the government has thus decided
to file a lawsuit against the ISO with a view to requiring it to
revise its 3166 country codes list.
The Geneva-based ISO is an international standard-setting body
composed of representatives from various national standards
organizations. Founded on Feb. 23, 1947, the organization promulgates
world-wide industrial and commercial standards. It is headquartered
in Geneva, Switzerland.
While ISO defines itself as a non-governmental organization, its
ability to set standards that often become law, either through
treaties or national standards, makes it more powerful than most
NGOs. In practice, ISO acts as a consortium with strong links to
ISO officials once said that the 3166 list was formulated in 1974
in line with the United Nations practice of referring to Taiwan as
"Taiwan, Province of China."