Thursday, October 11, 2007

President Chen Shui-bian's 2007 National Day Address (on Taiwan's UN bid)

A Happy Double Tenth and greetings to you all!

On this very special occasion of our Double Tenth National Day, we are gathered under one roof to celebrate our past accomplishments, reflect on our past shortcomings, and meditate in earnest on the course of Taiwan's future development.

You will note that the reviewing stand erected in front of the Presidential Office is different from past years in that it is adorned with a giant banner reading "UN for Taiwan, Peace Forever." This message signifies that our quest to gain entry into the UN will not be abandoned simply because of momentary setbacks. The Government of Taiwan will continue to pursue that goal with unwavering determination.

Taiwan is a sovereign nation. Its sovereignty rests in the hands of its 23 million people. Only the people of Taiwan have the right to decide their nation's future. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, passed on October 25, 1971, neither defined Taiwan as a part of the People's Republic of China nor affirmed the proposition that the People's Republic of China has any right to sovereignty over Taiwan. Taiwan and the People's Republic of China are two sovereign, independent nations, and neither exercises jurisdiction over the other. This is a historical fact. This is the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

The People's Republic of China has neither the right nor the ability to represent the 23 million people of Taiwan. Our people have the right to demand appropriate representation in the United Nations. We have the right to apply for admission to the UN as a new member under the name "Taiwan."

In the past, we have joined Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) under the name "Chinese Taipei," and the World Trade Organization (WTO) using the name "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu." Though dissatisfied with this state of affairs, we have reluctantly accepted it in view of practical international realities.

Before 1971, the United Nations was beset with quarreling over the right to represent China. Hence, if we were to once more demand restoration of our UN representation under the name "Republic of China," it would not only constitute a direct challenge to Resolution 2758 but cause us to fall back into the anachronistic mentality of belief in "one China" and Chiang Kai-shek's dictum "Gentlemen do not stand with thieves" [i.e. there can be no conciliation with usurpers].

That we have applied for new UN membership under the name "Taiwan" indicates that we do not intend to challenge Resolution 2758 of the UN General Assembly. Nor do we wish to compete with the People's Republic of China for the right to represent China.

This year has seen our first application for UN membership under the name "Taiwan," and although, as expected, our hopes were not realized, Taiwan's membership bid gave rise to unprecedented discussion of the issue in the General Assembly. Representatives of some 140 of the 192 UN member states registered to speak on the question of whether Taiwan's application should be included on this year's General Assembly agenda, and the debate lasted for over four hours. Moreover, media reports on our UN bid were more than four times as many as in last year.

This all goes to show that this year's efforts to join the UN have been a diplomatic success, and have greatly raised Taiwan's visibility in the international community.

On behalf of the government and people of Taiwan, I would like to express our heartfelt thanks and highest respect to our diplomatic allies and their leaders for their support and speaking out at the UN General Assembly.

Notwithstanding the importance of the international community's expressions of support in our quest to gain membership in the UN, the decisive factor, after all, is the question of whether the people of Taiwan are united. A recent public opinion poll indicated that 55 percent of Americans think Taiwan should have a seat in the UN.

When asked whether they would support UN membership for Taiwan if our forthcoming referendum on entering the United Nations using the name "Taiwan" is passed, another 15 percent, or 70 percent of the respondents, said "yes." This shows just how much the community of free and democratic societies respects the principle of referendum, a universal value and basic human right.

The principle "sovereignty lies in people" is the essence of democracy, and referendum is the most concrete, most direct expression of that principle. In 2003, we passed the first Referendum Act, and, in 2004, we held the first national referendum. In 2005, the Constitution was amended to abolish the National Assembly and empower the people to ratify constitutional amendments through referendum. In 2006, we mothballed the National Unification Council and its Guidelines for National Unification, dispelling the misconception of "ultimate unification" with China as a foregone conclusion, thereby enabling the 23 million people of Taiwan to enjoy the right to decide the future of their nation via referendum.

On September 14 of this year, the Central Election Commission officially announced its approval of a referendum proposal on the recovery of improperly obtained political party assets, to be held on January 12, 2008 in tandem with the legislative elections.

If the petition drive to hold a referendum on applying for UN membership under the name "Taiwan" is successful in gaining enough signatures by the end of October, and is announced valid upon review by relevant government agencies, we can look forward to holding it in conjunction with the upcoming March 22 presidential election.

China, on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, has distortedly portrayed our people's efforts in the pursuit of democracy as moves toward "de jure independence." It has opposed and attempted to suppress all of our democratization efforts. Facts demonstrate that cross-strait problems do not derive from Taiwan, which respects freedom, democracy, and human rights, but from China, which is still under totalitarian, dictatorial rule. This is a reality that the international community must squarely face.

In recent weeks, the global community of democracies has strongly condemned Myanmar's military junta for its cruel suppression of the nation's Buddhist monks and citizens, and expressed the intention to impose sanctions on the regime. As a member of the alliance of nations that champion freedom and democratic values, Taiwan is willing to do its share to help restore democratic order in Myanmar as soon as possible. Infringements of human rights and suppression of democracy are definitely not mere "domestic affairs." While showing its keen concern for developments in Myanmar, the international community should also conscientiously examine China's dismal human rights record as well as its brutal suppression of the freedoms of speech, the press, and religion.

While China's slogan for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is "one world, one dream," the international community, for its part, should steadfastly demonstrate its moral fortitude in demanding that China adhere to a "one world, one standard" principle. There can be no double standards when it comes to the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and peace.

The size of nations is irrelevant. The international community should not, in fear of China's military might, demand that Taiwan keep quiet. Nor should it, out of concern for commercial interests, turn a blind eye to China's military intimidation and diplomatic suppression of Taiwan, or to its "united front" economic warfare against Taiwan.

With China's rapid rise and relentless military build-up, the "China threat" is no longer confined to confrontation across the Taiwan Strait. In fact, it has already seriously impacted world peace. Members of the international community not only should refuse to join forces with China in suppressing Taiwan's democracy, but should strongly demand that China immediately withdraw missiles deployed along its southeastern coast and targeted at Taiwan, stop military exercises simulating attacks on Taiwan, abolish its so-called “anti-secession law,” and accelerate political and democratic reforms. We believe that only through China's democratic awakening can there be lasting peace in the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dr. T, please check out this commentary about why Taiwan needs our voice: