During the past few years, the months of September and October have become the highlight for the annual "Taiwan into the UN" campaign. Right now, a world body which was set up on the basis of the principle of universality is still excluding a free, democratic and independent nation of 21 million people.
The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 started a new era and a long series of declarations of independence in Asia and Africa. Because of a fluke accident of history the occupation of Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek's armies fleeing from China the Taiwanese people were not able to join the international family of nations as an independent nation right away.
Over the past four decades, the Taiwanese have, through their hard work and ingenuity, achieved one of the most prosperous economies of East Asia, and also brought about an almost full-fledged democracy. If we may paraphrase Christopher Reeve's speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago: "Taiwanese frequently achieve the impossible."
Some international observers argue against raising the Taiwan issue, saying that Taiwan's entry into the UN is "impossible" because China is in the Security Council and will block any attempt to let Taiwan join the UN. We believe that such a position is wrong: the world should not let itself be intimidated by a repressive and dictatorial China. It should stand up for the principles on which the UN was founded: freedom, democracy, equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
In particular Western nations, which seem so eager to trade with China, have the moral obligation to make it clear to China that its acceptance as a full partner in the international community hinges on its recognition of Taiwan as a friendly, free and independent neighbor.
It needs to be emphasized time and again that Taiwan fulfills all basic requirements of a nation-state: it has a defined territory, a population of 21 million (greater than that of three quarters of the UN member nations), and a government which exercises effective control over the territory and the population.
Why is it important that this de-facto independent country becomes a member of the UN? First, because of the original principles of the UN itself: the world body was founded on the principles of universality and self-determination. If the UN is to survive as an institution that safeguards world peace, it is essential that it adheres to these principles, and apply them to the case of Taiwan.
A second reason for supporting Taiwan's membership in the UN is that this further emphasizes that Taiwan's future is an international issue, to be dealt with by the international community, and not an "internal problem" for the "Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits" to decide. The responsibility of the international community stems from the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, which decided that Japan ceded its sovereignty over Taiwan, and that the future status of Taiwan was to be decided in due time "in accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations." Certainly in those days, this term could have only one meaning: "independence."
A third reason for supporting Taiwan's entry into the UN is that over the past decade Taiwan has due to the hard work of the democratic opposition and the overseas Taiwanese community achieved a democratic political system. This argument is especially relevant for the United States and Europe. It would be indefensible for the West to deny UN membership to a free and democratic nation, while condoning the presence of repressive, undemocratic nations such as China, Iraq, Iran, etc. This would be a flagrant violation of basic democratic principles.
It needs to be emphasized strongly that this new Taiwan is totally different from the old "Republic of China" which was kicked out of the United Nations in 1971. As we argued before: Resolution 2758 dealt with the question who was representing China in the United Nations. It did not deal with the question of Taiwan's representation, which is a separate issue, to be resolved according to the provisions of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951-52.
For China, the new Taiwan is thus not the old rival from the days of the Chinese Civil War on the mainland (a myth perpetuated by the Kuomintang authorities for many decades), but a new neighbor, which wants to live in peace with all its neighbors, including the big brother across the Straits.
On 17 July 1996, sixteen Latin American and African nations wrote a letter to the UN Secretary-General proposing that the issue of Taiwan's membership be put on the agenda of the 51st session of the General Assembly.
In an explanatory memorandum the sixteen governments argue that as a result of Resolution 2758 of 1971, which decided that the China seat at the UN would be taken by Beijing, the fundamental rights of the 21.3 million people of Taiwan to participate in international political, economic and cultural activities have "...not since 1971 been respected and protected in the same way that the rights of peoples of other States have."
The sixteen governments argue that this infringement of the collective rights of the Taiwanese violates the spirit of the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights, which advocates that "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs."
The memorandum further contrasts the democratic elections on Taiwan with Chinese missile tests and landing exercises. It emphasizes that the Chinese military maneuvers threatened peace, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. The memorandum concludes by stating that Resolution 2758 no longer reflects that changes that have taken place since 1971, and is therefore incomplete, obsolete, and unjust. The sixteen governments propose the establishment of an ad hoc committee to study the situation.
On 18 September 1996, the UN agenda committee regrettably decided without a vote not to put the Taiwan issue on the UN agenda.
The attempts made by the Kuomintang authorities in Taipei to enter the United Nations is still flawed: it is based on the so-called "One country, two seats" approach, and uses the anachronistic name "Republic of China on Taiwan." It also refers to the examples of East and West Germany and North and South Korea to bolster their case.
As was recently argued by former DPP-legislator Chai Trong-rong in an article in the Taipei-based Liberty Times, the Germany and Korea examples are not relevant for the case of Taiwan. When the two Germanies were accepted in the United Nations in 1973, both East and West were already recognized as two separate states by more than 100 countries. That the two nations subsequently decided to merge, is a separate matter, not related to their entry into the UN in 1973. When the two Korea's were allowed to join the UN, some 87 countries recognized both nations.
Dr. Chai argues that there is thus no precedent for the KMT's "One country, two seats" approach, and emphasizes that unlike the cases of Germany and Korea not a single country recognizes both PRC and the ROC (as the KMT authorities still call themselves). This approach is thus a dead-end street.
Dr. Chai proposes that Taiwan apply as a new member under the name "Taiwan". He argues that like in the case of the Baltic States, which were also threatened by a larger neighbor, international recognition will come when a national referendum shows that the people of Taiwan want a free, democratic and independent country.
We thus appeal to the rest of the world, and particularly the United States
and Europe, to live up to the principles of universality and democracy on which
the United Nations were founded, accept Taiwan as a full and equal partner, and
recognize it under the heading of a new "One Taiwan, One China"
policy, which finds its basis in the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952.
Such a "One Taiwan, One China" policy would not alter international recognition of the government in Beijing as the rulers of mainland China, but it should specifically adhere to the provisions of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, in which the members of the United Nations decided that "...the future status of Taiwan will be decided in accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations".
As part of this policy, the international community needs to express clearly that:
1. in accordance with Art. 1.2 of the UN Charter it is the right of the people of Taiwan to determine their own future, free from outside coercion,
2. the people of Taiwan have a right to membership of their country in the United Nations under the name "Taiwan", and
3. it is in China's own interest to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, to end hostilities towards the island, and to move towards peaceful coexistence, instead of perpetuating an old and anachronistic Civil War. The Taiwanese people didn't have anything to do with that Civil War and their future should not be held hostage to it.
The July-August 1996 issue of Foreign Affairs published an excellent article by Ian Buruma, titled "Taiwan's New Nationalists." In our view, it is a "must-read" for anyone interested in Taiwan or dealing with the political issues surrounding Taiwan.
Mr. Buruma was in Taiwan during the March 1996 Presidential elections, and spoke with many people from all tiers of Taiwanese society. His main conclusion is that the old Kuomintang's absurd dream of reunification has been replaced by a new native Taiwanese desire for a free and independent country. Mr. Buruma:
"The most powerful force driving Taiwan's newborn democracy is not a rising standard of living but a peculiar kind of nationalism. It pits those Chinese whose ancestors came to Taiwan over the past several centuries against those who fled to Taiwan from the mainland in 1949. It sets the vision of an independent Taiwan against the dream of one China. At the core of the nascent democracy is the clash between Taiwan's new nationalists and China's old Nationalists."
Mr. Buruma also describes how statues of Chiang Kai-shek, which used to be prominently displayed in front of every public building in Taiwan, are quickly disappearing. He explains that this is due to the fact that the Chiangs are held responsible by the native Taiwanese for more than 40 years of repression, corruption, and discrimination.
Mr. Buruma concludes his article with an interesting little episode of Japanese tourists visiting Taipei and noting the large bronze statue of generalissimo Chiang, wondering who he was. "It's the last emperor", one of them said. Old myths are thus rapidly fading, and Mr. Buruma notes that even as Beijing attempts to intimidate Taiwan, President Lee Teng-hui will go on dismantling the laws, institutions, and propaganda that kept the mainlanders in power in Taipei and their dreams of reclaiming China alive.
One of the interesting illustrations of how things have changed in Taiwan since the repressive days of the old Kuomintang, was reflected in a Wall Street Journal article in the beginning of August 1996, which reported that "in one of history's finest ironies" former general Chiang Wego, a son of Chiang Kai-shek, wants the remains of the generalissimo and his son Chiang Ching-kuo to be moved to their home village in Chekiang Province in China ("For Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan Fails to be haven in death it was in life", Wall Street Journal, August 8, 1996).
The article reported that the rise of democracy and Taiwanese nationalism in the past decade has created a powerful backlash against the Chiangs. It also stated that among the native Taiwanese, who account for about 85 percent of the island's 21 million people, hostility to the Chiang family runs deep, connected in popular memory to the 1947 Kuomintang massacre of thousands of local residents, and "... a longstanding system of discrimination that until recently gave all top government and military posts to mainlanders."
Over the past few weeks, the Western press paid an inordinate amount of attention to a new book by five Chinese, titled "China can say no" ("China too, can say No," Los Angeles Times, August 15th, 1996, "China: Just Saying No to America and Yes to world power", International Herald Tribune, August 20th, 1996, and "Rebels' New Cause: a Book for Yankee Bashing", New York Times, September 4th, 1996).
These and other articles, such as Steven Mufson's excellent report on the issue ("China Puts forth persistent, caustic anti-U.S. themes", Washington Post, August 13th 1996) describe the rising anti-Western nationalism that is reportedly sweeping China, propelled by the Beijing authorities in their attempts to outmaneuver in particular the United States at every turn in foreign policy.
The authors of the "China-can-say-no" book, which was heavily promoted by the official New China News Agency, suggest "burning down Hollywood," advocate war with Taiwan, praise Cuba for "standing up to the US", and profess admiration for Iran-backed Hezbollah guerrillas.
Taiwan Communiqué comment: If the views expressed in the book are indeed representative of a new generation of Chinese, then China has a sorry future ahead of it. It reflects the age-old paranoia of the Middle Kingdom vis-à-vis the outside world, and it prevents the growth of China towards a modern, responsible member of the international community.
The authors' statement, that the people of Taiwan have no right to determine their own political future, is totally ludicrous. The Taiwanese have worked hard to establish one of the most democratic political systems in Asia, and have no desire whatsoever to subject themselves to a foreign nation with a repressive and undemocratic political system, with a culture that is different from theirs as the Americans are from the British, and with a level of economic development that stands at one-thirtieth of their own.
Any attempt by China at "unifying" Taiwan and China would have disastrous results for stability in East Asia, since it would be a blow to freedom and democracy, would severely damage economic prosperity, and result in endless high tension in the area.
A free, democratic and independent Taiwan is saying "No" to a dictatorial and repressive China, and say "Yes" to the world community. It intends to become a full and equal member of the United Nations, and establish diplomatic relations with all countries who adhere to the basic principles on which the UN was founded: equal rights and self-determination.
Those who hesitate to establish relations with this new Taiwan because they are so intimidated by China's bullying, need to remember that it was under the auspices of the newly-established UN that so many new nations in Africa and Asia gained their independence. The people of Taiwan have precisely the same rights.
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