Thursday, August 30, 2007

Democratic Taiwan deserves an UN seat and the right to hold UN referendum

John Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State, made the US stance on Taiwan’s UN referendum known on Monday, branding the referendum proposal a “mistake.” He warned that the referendum would be viewed by the US government as an attempt to change “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait.

However, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian stressed that the aim of this referendum proposal would be to protect Taiwan’s status quo so as to avoid China’s aggression. In his view, “Taiwan” is the most appropriate and familiar name for the country to take part in international organizations. President Chen has been reiterating that applying to enter the UN under the name of Taiwan will not violate his “for noes” commitments to the US.

The US State Department has been very frustrated with President Chen’s push for the referendum and considers him to be a “trouble-maker.” The Washington keeps repeating its opposition to Taiwan’s plan to hold UN referendum and claims that in so doing the tensions between China and Taiwan will be intensified.

Nevertheless, what the US officials cannot realize is that President Chen is acting on behalf of the 23 million people of Taiwan. According to various public polls, more than 70% of the Taiwan citizens think that Taiwan should apply to enter the UN under the name of “Taiwan.” For instance, a survey carried out by the Taiwan Thinktank earlier this year suggested that more than 75% of Taiwanese expressed support for the idea of holding a referendum on Taiwan’s UN bid. Another survey commissioned by the Institute for National Policy Research and conducted by the ERA Survey Research Center in June showed that more than 70% of respondents supported the government’s UN bid under the name of Taiwan as well.

Certainly, as an elected president of a democratic country, President Chen has the responsibility to follow the mainstream opinion and look out for the Taiwanese’s best interests. It is his duty to follow the Taiwan people’s call for the universal values such as democracy, freedom of opinion, and respect for human rights.

It is a pity that the US has come under increasing pressure from the PRC on many aspects of the cross-strait issues, including Taiwan’s UN referendum proposal. An Taipei Times editorial today criticizes that it is ironic for the Beijing authority to trumpet that the PRC “places its hope in the people of Taiwan” but in the mean time has the fear in having the people of Taiwan raise their collective voice to tell the international community about what they truly want. And sadly, the US yields to China’s pressure and fails to see Taiwan’s UN referendum proposal as a way to consolidate democracy in Taiwan.

The editorial further points out that the US’ claim of “supporting Taiwan’s democracy” seems to be hysterical, on the grounds that the US government—as the leading promoter of democracy in the world—strongly opposes Taiwan’s referendum plan and shows no respect for the will of the Taiwanese people.

An official government press release also stresses that Taiwan’s democratically elected government is the only legitimate government that can represent the interests and wishes of the people of Taiwan. However, the UN and many countries in the world still neglect the voice of the Taiwanese and exclude Taiwan from the UN. This exclusion constitutes discrimination against the Taiwanese and deprives them of their fundamental right. To protect the interests of the 23 million people of Taiwan, there is an urgent need to examine this odd situation and to redress this mistaken omission.

At present, the US is busy with its global war on terrorism as well as maintaining a good relationship with the rising China, so the US does not want Taiwan to create any “troubles” and thus suppresses Taiwan’s referendum plan and its will of applying for the UN membership under the name of Taiwan. But, is it morally legitimate for the US and other countries to ignore the fact that China continues to spare no effort to suppress Taiwan in the international arena?

We argue that “normal states” in the world have no right to criticize Taiwan’s efforts in attaining a normal status in the international community. Taiwan firmly holds the commanding point of morality and humanity, because it is a democratic country that respects human rights and freedom of opinion and speech. Hence, we support Taiwan’s plan to hold a referendum on UN membership and the Taiwan people’s wish to exercise this universal right.

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