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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
The UN Charter guarantees the right of all states to membership. Why, then, does the United Nations exclude a nation, Taiwan, that satisfies all of the criteria of statehood defined in the 1933 Montevideo Convention and is more populous than 80 percent of UN member states?
A founding principle of the UN is the promotion of human freedom and democracy. Why, then, does the UN turn a cold shoulder to a country, Taiwan, rated as Asia's freest country in Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2006 report?
Another basic goal of the UN is to promote economic and social development, and to reduce poverty and disease. Why, then, do UN agencies reject the abundant financial, material and human resources offered by an advanced country, Taiwan, that ranks among the top 20 nations with regard to GDP, trade and investment in other countries?
The UN is also 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 Declarationâ€¦ 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 UN agencies ignore the rights of the 23 million Taiwanese people?
Most importantly, the UN was established to prevent war and promote peace. Why, then, has the UN turned a deaf ear to Taiwan's pleas for dialogue 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 (PRC), 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 UN officialdom as well.
Proclaiming once again the determination of Taiwan's people to take their rightful place in the UN and play a responsible role in achieving its exalted goals, President Chen Shui-bian submitted an application for membership to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 19. In response, the UN 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 UN Charter and UN 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 coopted the member states' deliberative and decision-making powers.
The Secretariat's action is also 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 (PRC) 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 UN to grant us admission as Taiwan. This follows the well-established precedent of employing names for participation in the UN and other international organizations that are different from domestically used, constitutional names.
In consideration of the aforementioned conditions, President Chen wrote a second letter to Secretary-General Ban, conveyed to his office on July 27, clarifying facts concerning Taiwan's application and requesting that the UN Secretariat follow the UN 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 1,000 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 directly communicate 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 UN membership for Taiwan. At the very least, they must utilize the UN as a platform to facilitate communication with Taiwan in order to preserve and strengthen peace in East Asia.
The writer is minister of Taiwan's Government Information Office.