By Shieh Jhy-wey
Original Link: The Washington Times
August 23, 2007
Proclaiming the determination of Taiwan's 23 million people to take their rightful place in the family of nations, President Chen Shui-bian submitted an application for membership in the United Nations to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 19. In response, a U.N. secretariat spokesperson told the press on July 23 that Taiwan's application "could not be received and was, thus, returned" in keeping with "the one-China policy of the United Nations" supposedly enshrined in General Assembly Resolution 2758.
This behavior is shocking, both for its arrogance and its ignorance.
The U.N. Charter and U.N. procedural rules unambiguously stipulate that the secretary-general shall immediately refer membership applications to the Security Council. The Security Council must deliberate the matter and make a recommendation to the General Assembly, whose members are to discuss the matter and vote on it. Therefore, with the aforementioned action, the U.N. secretariat has in effect co-opted the deliberative and decision-making powers of the U.N. member-states.
Equally disturbing is the fact that this action taken by the U.N. chief grossly misconstrues both the nature of Taiwan's membership application and the import of Resolution 2758. Taiwan's application in no way constitutes a challenge to the right of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to represent China, nor does Resolution 2758 state that Taiwan is a part of China.
After suffering under martial law over the course of 38 years until 1987, the people of Taiwan have since then created a vibrant democracy. Taiwan was rated Asia's most free country by Freedom House in its "Freedom in the World" 2006 report.
Perhaps U.N. officials have been misled by the past actions of the now-defunct, authoritarian party-state government of the Republic of China (ROC). The old regime, led by Chiang Kai-shek, claimed that it was the sole legitimate government of China. Unwilling to coexist with the PRC in the U.N., it withdrew from the world body in 1971 just before Resolution 2758 was passed.
The democratic government of today's Taiwan makes no such claim to govern China, and it is quite happy to coexist and cooperate with the PRC government in every way possible. Although our country is still saddled with the official name "Republic of China," the great majority of us identify ourselves as "Taiwanese" and call our country "Taiwan" — as, indeed, virtually everyone else in the world does.
For this reason, and in order to underline the fact that Taiwan makes no pretense of vying for the right to govern China, Mr. Chen's application requests "the admission of Taiwan," not the Republic of China, "as a member of the United Nations." This follows the well-established precedent set by current U.N. member-states of participating in the U.N. and other international organizations under names that differ from domestically used or constitutional names.
Irrespective of the status of Taiwan, the Taiwan Strait is indisputably one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints. Given that China continuously threatens to launch a war of annexation, has deployed a thousand missiles targeted at Taiwan and refuses to talk directly with the democratically elected government in Taipei, it devolves to the United Nations to fulfill its role of international peacekeeper in the region. At the very least, the United Nations should facilitate communications between all parties who have a stake in preserving peace in East Asia before a crisis situation develops.
U.N. organizations and officials must therefore cease allowing themselves to be intimidated by the totalitarian PRC government into making unwise decisions. In particular, they must stop kowtowing to Beijing's claims concerning the status of Taiwan. Taiwan is not a province of the People's Republic of China, nor is Taiwan part of a "divided China" comprised of PRC and ROC segments.
The U.N. Charter mandates membership for all states. Taiwan is indisputably a sovereign state, having for nearly six decades fulfilled all of the criteria for statehood stipulated in the 1933 Montevideo Convention. Unlike the PRC, Taiwan is also a state in which sovereignty rests in the hands of the people, as prescribed by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Therefore, all nations that champion the rule of law, freedom and human rights are morally bound to support the cause of U.N. membership for Taiwan. We will never trade freedom for tyranny.
Shieh Jhy-wey is minister of Taiwan's Government Information Office.