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UN and China criticized for politicizing earthquake aid

Washington, 21 September 1999

The United Nations and China were criticized for politicizing disaster relief aid to Taiwan following the massive earthquake which struck the island on September 21st.

U.S. Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said in a statement issued on September 21st, that the position taken by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva " bordering on the absurd."

He added: "hundreds of people are fighting for their lives, and the bureaucrats at the UN are worried about offending Beijing's dictators. China has absolutely no right to interfere in this situation. China should leading and not hindering the effort to help the Taiwanese people deal with this catastrophe."

On Tuesday, OCHA official Rudolf Mueller told Reuters that his office could do little "...because it does not recognize Taipei." He said he was "... waiting for the government in Beijing to request foreign assistance before it can do more than pass on information on the quake."

Taiwan had asked for international assistance, but, Mr. Mueller stated "...we as the U.N. cannot act on the basis of a request from Taiwan, because it is not an officially recognized government."

Also, on its website, , OCHA referred to the issue as "The Latest on the Earthquake in Taiwan Province of China".

Taiwanese organizations immediatedly wrote to OCHA, urging the organization to modify this to read "The Latest on the earthquake in Taiwan," since no resolution or decision by the UN has ever recognized Taiwan to be part of China.

At the San Francisco Peace Treaty it was decided that the future of the island was to be determined in due time "in accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the UN." According to the Charter of the UN, the people on the island have the right of self-determination, and it is obvious that the people of Taiwan do not wish to consider themselves to be part of the PRC.

Meanwhile, in the overseas Taiwanese community, the statements by Chinese president Jiang Zemin that the disaster "hurt the hearts of people on the mainland as the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are as closely linked as flesh and blood," were dismissed as political propaganda.

Overseas Taiwanese organizations also dismissed the Chinese announcements that Beijing was donating $100,000 in disaster aid and another $60,500 worth of relief supplies as an attempt to capitalize on the disaster. A press report from Hong Kong even dared to suggest that with these meager amounts, China "led" international offers to help Taiwan recover from the massive earthquake.

James Lilley, former U.S. ambassador to China, also criticized China, saying that “What you really need is a gesture that goes well beyond this as I say, a personal emissary, calling off any kind of military confrontation while this earthquake is being dealt with.”