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More criticism of UN and China for politicizing earthquake aid

Washington, 23 September 1999

US Representative Howard L. Berman (D-CA), a senior member of the House International Relations Committee, today criticized the United Nations for seeking approval from China before sending a disaster assessment team to Taiwan following the recent devastating earthquake.

"Politics should be put on the back burner when lives are hanging in the balance," Berman said. "It is absolutely unconscionable that the people of Taiwan, in their hour of need, should have to wait for the U.N. to jump over political hurdles erected by China."

"Taiwan is a strong democracy and a responsible member of the international community," Berman continued. "Over the years Taiwan has generously provided assistance to many countries suffering from their own natural disasters, including China. There should be no hesitation when the tables are turned."

"The current situation only strengthens my belief that Taiwan should be admitted to the World health organization and other international organizations," Berman continued. "The health and well-being of the Taiwanese people should clearly transcend any and all political considerations."

The president of the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), professor Wen-yen Chen, echoed Mr. Berman's remarks. He said: "It is a disgrace that Beijing has to give the go ahead to the UN for sending relief aid to Taiwan. When will the world realize that Taiwan and China are two separate independent countries? It is quite saddening that politics are being played over the heads of the victims of this devastating earthquake."

On Tuesday, 21 September, an official of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Mr. 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."