A Call for Amity Toward Free China Shocks UN General Assembly

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

Speakers at this year’s debate week at the United Nations General Assembly peppered much of their oratory with cliches about uniting the world to combat common threats like Covid and climate change. One much overlooked speech, however, used those themes to sneak in a subversive, even heretical message.

Few paid attention to President Surangel Whipps, Jr. of Palau. “Who cares what those small island states have to say?” one might ask. “What do they know about world affairs anyway?”

Except that the president of the Free Chinese republic on Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, was so impressed that she tweeted a video of a long passage from Mr. Whipps’ speech, complete with Chinese subtitles.

After thanking America, Taiwan, Japan, and Australia for sending vaccines and personal protective equipment to his tiny Pacific island country, which helped secure Palau’s record of zero covid deaths and no hospitalizations, Mr. Whipps lobbed this week a rhetorical petard in the General Assembly.

“We would like to highlight the RoC Taiwan’s leadership in the global response against covid 19,” he said. “Not only have they demonstrated consistent and effective management on the pandemic within their borders, but their leadership has also extended to Palau. Taiwan’s international response facilitated cooperation and implementation of an effective sterile travel corridor between Taiwan and Palau. This sterile corridor has allowed Taiwan and Palau to resume medical and educational cooperation, and recoup economic engagement and other benefits of intl travel.”

And then the president went even further, declaring, “We encourage the UN system to accept Taiwan as a valuable contributor to our collective efforts, and strongly advocate for Taiwan’s participation in the UN system.”


At Turtle Bay, even whispering the word Taiwan is verboten. In the past a handful of Taiwanese NGOs were allowed some participation in the UN’s high-minded end of September week. Things got significantly worse as Xi Jinping’s Communist China snared key positions in the world body. Beijing became much more aggressive about rejecting any representation for the democratic island it covets as its own.

Free China’s short stint as an observer country in the World Health Organization was rescinded. NGOs from Taiwan, sole vestige of real Chinese democracy, were barred from getting near First Avenue. Requests for UN press accreditation made by Taiwan journalists are routinely rejected and Taiwanese visitors who fail to conceal their nationality with a foreign form of identification will be weeded out of UN tour groups.

Which is why Mr. Whipps’ speech is so subversive. Taiwan, the world’s top maker of computer chips and semiconductors, does business with a lot of countries, but they treat the democratic Asian country like a concubine: she’s nice to hang out with and have a secret rendezvous now and then, but god forbid if you’re shown together in public.

More than a dozen countries do have, like Palau, official ties with the Free Chinese republic, but Beijing routinely threatens them economically, and several have already severed those relations.

Groucho Marx is credited with saying “I’ll never belong to a club that accepts me as a member.” Taiwan is the opposite. Despite the UN’s many shortcomings, Taipei longs for recognition from that world body and its affiliated agencies. Why? Perhaps it shares the same idealism Mr. Whipps expressed in the most poetic part of his speech.

In Palau, he said, “there are many different fishes, and then there is the surgeonfish we call mesekuuk, that symbolizes unity. The surgeonfish represents a unique characteristic. They’re fish that graze and roam on the reef alone, eating algae. But once danger lurks, they all swim quickly from wherever they are along the reef and come together in a large school resembling an intimidating ocean animal to provide safety and security for all.”

And so, he concluded, “the nations of this world must act like this fish and come together. Including Taiwan. Taiwan’s 23.5 million people must also be given a voice, as our UN charter states, ‘we the peoples,’ all nations working together can overcome the challenges of our time, from covid to climate, and act with integrity and resolve to leave a better world for our children.”

And yes, he said that during the UN year’s most prominent event.

Twitter @bennyavni

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  Create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use