After a company-wide email sent on Tuesday to all employees of the Dubai-based Emirates stated that the "Chinese Government" required that Taiwanese employees immediately remove and replace their country of origin flag pins with that of China, a backlash caused the carrier to retract and modify the order, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Following Emirates' public support for Beijing's One-China policy, Nicola Parker, the carrier's uniform standards and development manager, issued an internal email to all employees stating, "We have been instructed by the Chinese Government that with immediate effect, Emirates airline cabin crew are to follow the One-China policy."
"This means you must remove the Taiwanese flag from your service waistcoat and replace it with the Chinese flag," the Tuesday email added. "This must be followed by all Taiwanese crew without exception."
No other nationality was mentioned in the email, which said the new policy would be in place "until further notice," but the message added that employees were allowed to stop wearing any pin, if they desired.
The backlash was quick, and pointed, and Parker speedily issued a new edict detailing that the first email had been sent "in error" and that now all employees of the company could avoid wearing any flag pin, in what the carrier described as a uniform policy overhaul.
The second letter did not offer an explanation as to why the first email had included the phrase: "Additional stock of Chinese flags have been ordered."
By Wednesday, an official Emirates statement asserted that Parker's first email was "sent in error" and that the carrier "retracted" the demand.
"Our intent is to recall the flag pins worn by all our cabin crew as part of our uniform update," the airline said in a statement, cited by SCMP, adding, "Emirates apologises for the communication error."
Under China's One-China policy, Taiwan — a US ally — is regarded as a rogue state. Emirates employees wore flag pins from their countries of origin to indicate cabin crew language skills.
The Taiwanese government did not respond to requests to comment on the fracas, but citizens of the island nation were vocal in their condemnation of the airline.
One Facebook user avowed that, "What China did will only upset Taiwanese people and make them resentful."