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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 113

Democratic Taiwan dares Communist China once again

By *Anjan Roy - Syndicate Features

Taiwan is back in the news not because of a new spat with mainland China but because of its knock at the UN doors. A membership application signed by President Chen Shui-bian has been delivered to the Secretary General. Till 1971, Taiwan represented China on the world body. Now it wants to be a member in its own right as Taiwan. Massive rallies have been staged across the island country demanding that the UN accept the island’s application.

From all accounts, the UN membership has become an obsession across the nation. Chen is even planning a referendum on taking the UN seat as Taiwan. He is upset with the US’s pre-occupation with China. “As a leader in the community of democracies, why can't the US say no to China? “Why can't the US openly say that you can't hold a gun pointing at the head of the 23 million people of Taiwan and use the other hand to choke Taiwan,” President Chen asks in anguish.

The main opposition, Nationalist Party (NP), which stands for eventual unification with the mainland, is also changing tact. Well, it sees the UN membership as ‘a huge vote getter’ with the Presidential elections round the corner. That is why NP leaders have also staged impressive pro-UN membership rallies in central Taiwan, their strong-hold.

Beijing is not amused, obviously. The Foreign Office spokesman has snubbed Chen Shui-bian publicly and declared the UN membership plan is ‘doomed to fail’. Only a few small countries have been responding to Taipei’s request to propose its UN bid since 1993 as the biggies do not want to cross swords with the Communist regime, which is always opposed to a democratic nation in its neighbourhood.

Taipei fulfils the criteria for membership of the world body. Taiwan has a defined territory, a population of 23 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. What is more Taiwanese have achieved one of the most prosperous economies of East Asia, and also brought about a full-fledged democracy.

Cut back to 1945, the year UN was established on the principles of universality and self-determination. And to 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed. Under the Treaty, Japan ceded its sovereignty over Taiwan, and it was agreed that the future status of Taiwan would 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’.

If the UN is to survive as an institution that safeguards world peace, it must adheres to these principles, and apply them to the case of Taiwan. Just as it did in the case of East Timor. Jakarta always claimed East Timor as its own. But the UN backed East Timor’s bid for freedom from Indonesia and recognized it as a separate state; If it did not adhere to a “one Indonesia” policy despite Jakarta's protests, why should it stick to ‘one China’ policy? Would the UN accept “one Russia” policy now long after the breakdown of USSR

Beijing’s concern is understandable. Granting Taiwan a place in the UN blunts its case that Taiwan’s future is its internal problem. And Taiwan's future becomes an international issue to be dealt with by the international community as provided under the San Francisco Peace Treaty. But the question is can the West to deny UN membership to a free and democratic nation, which Taiwan is after five decades of existence, while condoning the presence of repressive, undemocratic nations across the globe. This would be a flagrant violation of basic democratic principles.

Admittedly, United Nations is both an idealistic organisation and platform for power politics. On the one hand, it attempts to manage world politics on a principled basis without regard to the size or strength of nations. On the other, it is the child of World War II, dominated by the victorious Allies and serves as the mouthpiece for the most powerful countries, now increasingly of the sole super power.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has a permanent seat on the Security Council and wields its economic and political muscle throughout the world. It therefore exercises a veto over U.N. actions. The PRC's claim to Taiwan is based primarily on the contention that Taiwan was once part of mainland. This does not mean that any state, on the basis of history can claim a territory and control the eligibility of any other state for membership in the U.N. on the premise that the historical integrity of the former must be preserved and protected.

So the fact of the matter is the UN with its present “One China” policy is going against its own established planks. And it is also ignoring current facts on the ground. If Panama is unquestionably separate from Columbia; and if the boundaries of Yugoslavia and of the old Soviet Union no longer have meaning, then the U.N.'s supposed "one China" policy has no basis.

Taiwan possesses a well-defined territory; a functional government and a sense of national identity. It is neither a part of the PRC, nor does China have the right to represent Taiwan's 23 million people. Taiwan and China have divergent political, economic, social and cultural systems and are two independent states.

UN Resolution 2758 may have solved the problem of China’s representation in 1971, but has by no means solved Taiwan's representation since then. The continued isolation of democratic Taiwan will only encourage and embolden Communist China to take more aggressive actions, thereby spreading instability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Political apartheid against Taiwan's peace-loving people must end. UN must acknowledge the political reality of Taiwan as an independent state to uphold the time tested principles of democracy and equality. (Syndicate Features)

*Anjan Roy the author is a Delhi based security & international affairs specialist

Syndicate Features

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