Friday, July 27, 2007

UN bid referendum is a must for Taiwan

This referendum proposal is a “balancing measure” for defending Taiwan against the One China policy and China’s using international law.

On 12th July, the DPP-led cabinet's Appeals Review Committee (ARC) decided that a petition initiated by the DPP for a national citizen referendum on whether to join the United Nations under the name of "Taiwan" instead of the nation's official title was a "valid topic," overturned the earlier veto decided by Executive Yuan’s Referendum Evaluation Committee (REC). The referendum will then be held in 2008.

This proposal has been very controversial both at home and abroad. Not only China strongly opposes it, but also the US clearly expresses its disapproval at a news briefing held by the State Department. People may, for this reason, question the necessity for proposing this referendum in such a severe situation. In my view however, this referendum proposal is a “balancing measure” for defending Taiwan against the one China policy as well as China’s using international law.

China has made full efforts to prevent Taiwan from changing its status quo unilaterally through constitution amendments, and has worked to achieve the legal interpretation that Taiwan is a part of China. It is noteworthy that according to Article 2 of the UN Charter, if China succeeds in the latter, the UN will have no right to “intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any [member] state.” It implies that none of the UN member states is allowed to intervene in Taiwan issue, once Taiwan falls within China’s domestic jurisdiction.

In 1979 when the US established formal diplomatic ties with the PRC, the US exploited the “One-China” policy to allow space for different interpretations on both sides of China and Taiwan. At that time, most countries adopted the so-called “Canadian pattern” in order not to give formal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan’s belonging to China. They used equivocal terms such as “respect,” “take not of,” “fully respect and understand,” or “acknowledge” to allow space for different interpretations.

However, China has gradually succeeded in making powerful countries such as UK, Russia, and France formally admit Taiwan as a part of China. It means that except the US, all other permanent members in UN Security Council have agreed with this claim. China has also tried to woo more supporters for its sovereignty over Taiwan in the international arena. For example, China successfully made the Chairman of WHO Executive Board reiterate that Taiwan is a part of China, when Taiwan sought for applying to the said organization. Furthermore, when Taiwan tried to sign for UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), China made the UN Secretary-General write to formally inform Taiwan that Taiwan is not qualified to sign the convention since it is a part of China. Both examples clearly illustrate that how actively China has worked in international community to consolidate the legal ground for its sovereign claim over Taiwan. Obviously, China aims at limiting Taiwan in its “One-China” framework. Thus, Taiwan has no choice but tries to adopt balancing legal measures to defend it. If Taiwan keeps silent and has no action, other countries would have no possible ways to help Taiwan due to the non-interference principle of international law.

From perspective of international law, the majority supported UN bid referendum implies that Taiwan is a peaceful, independent, and sovereign state, willing and able to shoulder obligations listed on the UN Charter. Moreover, it can pave the way for Taiwan to argue that it is not a part of China. The implications of the referendum are to get rid of concerns that rose under the One-China policy and through democratic procedure to express Taiwan’s collective disagreement of China’s sovereignty claims.

As long as the “Taiwan is not a part of China” argument is confirmed (or at least to counterweigh China’s sovereignty claim over Taiwan), the following ratiocination would be that any actions that could jeopardize peace and security within the Taiwan Strait will be viewed as “a matter of international concern.” In other words, Taiwan’s sovereignty argument has provided important legal ground for our allies, such as the US and Japan, to legitimately interfere in any possible military conflicts between Taiwan and China.

Certainly, Taiwan’s future should be determined by the Taiwanese people, rather than to expect other countries’ interference in the possible military conflicts against China. To have a UN bid referendum is a must for Taiwan. No matter what the outcome will be, the referendum at its best will serve to confirm that Taiwan is NOT a part of China and to allow legal ground for other countries to intervene any possible military conflicts between China and Taiwan.

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