Washington, Jan. 27 (CNA) The United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday denounced the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for blocking Twitter accounts that criticized ICAO's continued exclusion of Taiwan during a global public health crisis.
"The United Nation's @icao plays a valuable role in ensuring aviation security. But silencing voices that oppose ICAO's exclusion of Taiwan goes against their stated principles of fairness, inclusion, and transparency," the committee said in a Twitter post.
The tweet was a response to ICAO blocking critics, as revealed by U.S. news website Axios earlier the same day.
According to Axios, Jessica Drun (莊宛樺), a non-resident fellow at the Project 2049 Institute noticed on Jan. 25 that ICAO had blocked her on Twitter, two days after she criticized ICAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) for refusing to share knowledge with Taiwan's authorities in a tweet.
"This means civil aviation authorities for one of busiest regional airports do not receive up-to-date info on any potential ICAO-WHO efforts. This is how a virus spreads," Drun said the Jan. 23 tweet.
There has been an outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which causes respiratory infection in the city of Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected in December 2019.
The virus has since spread to other countries, reaching Europe and the U.S. as a result of people traveling by air, sea and land or direct contact with a carrier.
The airport Drun mentioned in her tweet was Taoyuan International Airport, which was ranked the 11th busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic in 2018, handling more than 46.5 million passengers.
The Twitter accounts of several other critics were also blocked by ICAO, the Axios report said. However, it did not identify them, saying only some were Capitol Hill staffers, analysts and an English teacher in Guangzhou who had posted similar criticisms.
Through his press shop Twitter account, U.S. senator Marco Rubio described ICAO's blocking of accounts as "outrageous" and said it was "another sign that the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to pressure and bully international organizations to bend to its demands are working."
In another tweet posted Jan. 24, Rubio said Beijing's efforts to block Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations such as the WHO have real effects on global responses to public-health crises.
"We are especially reminded of this as the deadly coronavirus has reached Taiwan," he tweeted.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has instructed its representative office in Canada, where ICAO’s headquarters is located, to communicate the “solemn protest” of Taiwan’s government to the organization, said Joanne Ou (歐江安), the ministry’s spokeswoman, on Tuesday.
MOFA condemns ICAO for its “undue suppression of voices that support Taiwan” and its “loss of impartiality,” said Joanne Ou (歐江安), adding that Taiwan will seek to consolidate the efforts of its diplomatic allies and like-minded countries to demand ICAO ceases such actions.
Meanwhile, the ICAO, which is currently headed by former Chinese aviation official Fang Liu (劉芳), issued a reminder of its social media rules on Twitter, which say: "Irrelevant, compromising and offensive material will be removed and the publisher precluded."
The tweet added: "Join us in improving advocacy for sustainable aviation development through fact-based discourse."