UN seat for Taiwan a human rights issue
The UN General Assembly is set to vet a 15-member motion in favour of Taiwan. Issue remains unresolved since 1971 as Beijing’s military threats persist.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – A new attempt to give Taiwan a United Nations seat will be launched in the next General Assembly in New York starting on September 18. At least 15 countries are set to sponsor a motion to that effect and have informed the president of the Assembly of their intention. The goal is to have the General Assembly urge the Security Council to consider Taiwan’s application for a seat in the international organisation. As the Republic of China, the island nation held a seat until 1971 when it was replaced by the People’s Republic of China.

For many Taiwanese, a UN seat is a “human rights issue.” Taiwanese travel abroad, trade and help others but have no voice in international affairs. For example, since they have no seat in the World Health Organisation (WHO) they cannot intervene to provide assistance in cases of international pandemics or other health crises.

Mainland China has steadfastly prevented Taiwan from taking part in WHO activities, claiming that it represented all Chinese, this despite its inability to influence or intervene in the “rebel province.”

By contrast, Taiwan is represented in the World Trade Organisation and the International Olympic Committee.

All 15 sponsors of the pro-Taiwan motion have diplomatic relations with Taipei; they are the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Gambia, Malawi, Palau, Swaziland, Tuvalu, Sao Tome e Principe, Marshall Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and Grenadine, Honduras, Burkina Faso, Kiribati and Belize.

The representatives of these countries said they would speak in favour of Taiwan and demand that its application be given due consideration.

Since 1993 Taiwan’s allies have tried to open a debate on its UN membership but to no avail.

UN Resolution 2758, which recognizes the People’s Republic as China’s sole representative in the world body since 1971, remains in force. However, since the end of the Civil War in 1949 and Chiang Kai-shek’s flight to the island, Taiwan has been de facto independent, a parliamentary democracy and the world’s 18th economy.

Taiwan’s foreign minister has said several times that Resolution 2758 is silent about Taiwan and does not give mainland China the right to speak for the island’s 23 million people.

In order to sidestep the 1971 resolution, Taiwan this year has applied to join under its own name rather than its old name of Republic of China.

A public opinion poll in March indicated that 77 per cent of the island’s residents are in favour of both the UN application and the name change.

The United Nations has rejected Taiwan’s demands so far. In July Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian wrote to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterating his country’s demand but the letter was returned, without any statement. However Mr Ban has stopped calling Taiwan “part of the People’s Republic of China,” to the mainland’s annoyance.

Beijing is still bent on Taiwan’s complete isolation. Not only is it continuing to resist Taipei’s demands at the UN, but it is trying to use its largesse to steal away the diplomatic support Taiwan does have. In fact, 24 countries still have diplomatic relations with the island.

In 2005 China’s parliament (National People’s Congress) adopted a law banning Taiwan’s secession; giving the Chinese government the legal means to intervene militarily against island should it declare its independence. In fact, some 900 missiles are aimed across the Taiwan Strait.

According to Taiwanese Minister Shieh Jhy-wey, “Taiwan is the only country denied a seat in the United Nations.” In his opinion, granting the island a seat would uphold the principles of equality and human dignity.