Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Is Washington Serious about Supporting Democracy around the World?

Last month, deputy US secretary of state John Negroponte had an interview with Phoenix Television in Hong Kong. Although Negroponte did emphasize the friendship between Taiwan and the US, still, he expressed the US opposition to the proposed referendum plan regarding Taiwan’s bid on joining the UN under the name “Taiwan.”

Obviously, Negroponte fails to understand that Taiwan’s UN referendum underlines the Taiwanese’ desire for their country to be a full member in the international community instead of being isolated internationally.

According to Gerrit van der Wees, the editor of Taiwan Communique, the US administration is now playing into China’s hands while frustrating those in Taiwan who have worked long and hard to achieve democracy. He stressed that the reason the US is playing into China’s hands is because Beijing has been manipulating the US to do its bidding. From China’s perspective, as Taiwan democracy grows, Beijing has less influence over Taiwan. Thus, their strategy is to force the US to restrain Taiwan’s democracy.

Applying for the UN membership has been a very important issue for Taiwan’s government and people, and by holding a referendum, it will allow the US and the international community to have a good understanding of how the Taiwanese people view this issue. Moreover, it can be a good example for the Chinese to see how democracy works.

It is a pity that Dennis Wilder, senior director for Asian Affairs at the US National Security Council, said that membership in the UN requires statehood, and Taiwan or the Republic of China “is not at this point a state in the international community.” In his article, Gerrit van der Wees further argues that like many policymakers in the international society, Wilder fails to distinguish “being a state” from “recognition by other nations.”

Van der Wees further gives us an example: the most authoritative definition of the “nation state” is given in the 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, to which the US is a signatory. The convention’s definition of a nation state is as follows: 1) a defined territory, 2) a permanent population and 3) a government capable of entering into relations with other states.

There is no doubt that Taiwan fulfills all the three requirements mentioned above. Therefore, Taiwan is a nation-state.

After undergoing a remarkable transition to democracy in the 1990s, Taiwan is now a free and democratic country. As such, the Taiwan government deserves to be recognized in the international community. Taiwan’s future, nevertheless, cannot be dictated by the Chinese Communist Party which has no sense of human rights, democracy and so on.

We hope that if the US and other democratic countries are serious about supporting democracy around the world, then they must stand up for their basic principles of human rights, freedom and democracy, and in so doing support Taiwan’s wish to join international organizations like the WHO and the UN.

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