Yang Jianli, September 22, 2017
Recently, the long detained Taiwanese citizen and human rights activist Lee Ming-che appeared in a bogus trial in Chinese courts and was forced to plead guilty to “subverting (Chinese) state power”. Outraged family members and Taiwanese supporters might want to come to the United Nations’ human rights mechanisms for help — but they can’t. This is because they, as citizens of Taiwan, are not represented at the world governing body. With pressure from China, even Taiwanese tourists are routinely excluded from visiting the UN Headquarters with Taiwanese passports. Egregious and ridiculous as such is the reality facing us today.
The only thing preventing Taiwan, a full democracy, from taking its rightful seat in the UN is China, and China’s aggressive posture on the international stage with respect to Taiwan. Allies of Taiwan such as the US and like-minded nations must stand up to China’s bullying and intimidation and advocate for Taiwan to rejoin the UN, or at a minimum as the first step, to ensure that Taiwan is able to participate in a meaningful way in UN-affiliated organizations and meetings. Succumbing to pressure from China to exclude Taiwan from UN-related organizations and activities is tantamount to abandoning the beacon of democracy, human rights, and rule of law in Asia, and to depriving the 23 million citizens of democratic Taiwan their fundamental rights to participate in, and receive protections from, the mechanisms of global governance. This is as unfair to the people of Taiwan as it is harmful to the interests of the world.
Taiwan’s participation in UN mechanisms not only benefits Taiwan, but also the rest of the international community. Taiwan’s absence, from, for example, the World Health Organization, Interpol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the International Civil Aviation Organization, creates critical gaps in addressing borderless issues, such as the spread of disease, cross-border crime, counterterrorism efforts and global security, climate change, and aviation safety.
- For the first time since 2009, as a result of pressure from Beijing, Taiwan was not invited to attend the World Health Assembly, the decision making body of the WHO, which met in Geneva this past May. Beijing insisted that Taiwan publicly accept the “one China” principle as a condition for retaining its observer status.
The importance of Taiwan’s involvement in the WHO cannot be overstated. The SARS outbreak in 2003 is a clear example: WHO’s delays in getting Taiwan critical information and timely assistance (because it wasn’t a member of WHO and China said it would assist Taiwan, and didn’t) contributed to the deaths of over 30 Taiwanese citizens. As a leader in health care in Asia, and a global leader in several medical specialties, Taiwan also has much to contribute to the international community.
- Also in May, the Chinese delegation to a UN-affiliated conference called the Kimberley Process, which seeks to control the trade in conflict or “blood” diamonds, caused such a raucous scene at the meeting in Australia protesting the presence of delegates from Taiwan that the Taiwanese delegation was eventually asked to leave, even though Taiwan had received a formal invitation.
- Similarly, due to Chinese pressure, Taiwan continues to be excluded from Interpol, which hampers international efforts to fight cross-border crime and terrorism. In November 2016, Interpol rejected Taiwanese participation in its general assembly.
- Taiwan unsuccessfully sought observer status with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN-affiliated organization. While the ICAO invited Taiwan to attend as an observer in 2013, an invitation from the organization to Taiwan was not forthcoming for its meeting in Montreal in September 2016. Given Taiwan’s bustling airports, economy, and the growing number of tourists (many of whom are from China), the absence of Taiwan from a key air safety regulatory body poses serious concerns for aviation safety.
China’s relentless and increasingly aggressive tactics to exclude Taiwan from global regulatory bodies has only harmful consequences. Absolutely no benefit comes from Taiwan’s exclusion; China’s political machinations are cynical and detrimental to global interests.
And China’s conduct contravenes the spirit and purpose of the United Nations, which includes: “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” and “to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all….” UN Charter, Article 1
Taiwan has consistently acted as a responsible member of the international community. To name just a few examples: it was one of the few countries to voluntarily announce targets for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and Taiwan voluntarily adopted the two key UN human rights treaties (the ICCPR and ICESCR), incorporated their provisions into Taiwan’s domestic law, and devised its own innovative review process, since it cannot participate in the review process of the UN human rights treaty bodies.
Taiwan has much to contribute to world order, and the UN should open its doors to the vibrant democracy of 23 million people. The world needs Taiwan’s involvement and contributions, and Taiwan’s rights and interests must be protected.
Yang Jianli is the president of Initiatives for China. Follow him on Twitter @yangjianli001
Also by Yang Jianli:
Remembering Liu Xiaobo — And What the U. S. Can Do, Yang Jianli, July 22, 2017