Taiwan Information Minister Shieh, Taiwan Belongs in the UN, 2007

Shieh Jhy-wey is Minister of the Taiwan Government Information Office. This op-ed was published in the New York Sun on September 12, 2007.
September 12, 2007

The U.N. Charter guarantees the right of all states to membership. So why does the United Nations exclude Taiwan, a nation that satisfies all of the criteria of statehood defined in the 1933 Montevideo Convention and is more populous than 80% of U.N. member states?

A founding principle of the United Nations is the promotion of human freedom and democracy. Why, then, does the United Nations turn a cold shoulder to a country rated as Asia's freest country in Freedom House's
2006 report, "Freedom in the World?"

Another basic goal of the U.N. is to promote economic and social development, and to reduce poverty and disease. Why, then, do U.N. agencies reject the abundant financial, material, and human resources offered by an advanced country that ranks among the top 20 nations with regard to GDP, trade, and investment in other countries?

The U.N. also is founded on the championing of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration. … no distinctions shall be made on the basis of the political jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs." Why, then, do U.N.
agencies ignore the rights of the 23 million Taiwanese people?

Most importantly, the U.N. was established to prevent war and promote peace. Why, then, has the U.N. turned a deaf ear to Taiwan's pleas for dialog and assistance when the Taiwan Strait is widely viewed as one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints?

The answer to all of the above questions is the same: The world's governments as well as officials in international organizations bow to pressure exerted by the rulers of the People's Republic of China, with its burgeoning economic and military might.

Beijing claims that Taiwan is a PRC province and must not be allowed membership in organizations that require statehood. Though relatively few countries have explicitly affirmed that claim, most of them apparently dare not openly repudiate it for fear of economic or other retaliation. Fear of ruffling Beijing's feathers pervades U.N. officialdom as well.

Proclaiming once again the determination of Taiwan's people to take their rightful place in the U.N. and play a responsible role in achieving its exalted goals, President Chen submitted an application for membership to U.N. Secretary General Ban on July 19. In response, the U.N. secretariat returned the application, supposedly in keeping with "the one-China policy of the United Nations" enshrined in General Assembly Resolution 2758.

This behavior bespeaks contempt for the U.N. Charter and U.N. procedural rules, which stipulate that the secretary-general shall automatically refer membership applications to the Security Council and, ultimately, the General Assembly. The secretariat, however, has co-opted the member states'
deliberative and decision-making powers.

The secretariat's action also is disturbing because it grossly misconstrues both the nature of Taiwan's membership application and the import of Resolution 2758. The application in no way constitutes a challenge to the right of the government of the People's Republic of China to represent China. Nor does the resolution imply that Taiwan is a part of China.

For these reasons, and in order to underline the fact that Taiwan makes no pretense of vying for the right to govern China, we have requested the U.N.
to grant us admission as Taiwan. This follows the well-established precedent of employing names for participation in the U.N. and other international organizations that are different from domestically used, constitutional names. In consideration of the aforementioned conditions, Mr. Chen wrote a second letter to Mr. Ban, conveyed to his office on July 27, clarifying facts concerning Taiwan's application and requesting that the U.N. secretariat follow the U.N. rules of procedure and pass on the application to the Security Council.

The peoples of Taiwan and China have strong cultural and linguistic bonds, their economies have become highly interdependent, and marriage between citizens of the two states is common. All of this bodes well for the gradual development of a mutually beneficial relationship.

The two are vastly different nonetheless. Taiwan is a democratic society based on respect for human rights, while China is controlled by a tyrannical regime that tramples on human rights. Taiwan is a peace-loving society that poses no threat to anyone. Beijing, however, has arrayed a thousand missiles against Taiwan and is building a war machine aimed at overwhelming us and deterring others from coming to our aid.

Taipei is open to discussion with any nation on any matter, and especially looks forward to establishing a framework for peaceful interaction between Taiwan and China. Beijing refuses to communicate directly with Taipei and bullies other nations and organizations into isolating Taiwan.

Such behavior is a recipe for disaster. Enlightened nations must realize this and support U.N. membership for Taiwan. At the very least, they must utilize the U.N. as a platform to facilitate communication with Taiwan in order to preserve and strengthen peace in East Asia.