Not Worth Joining

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The New York Sun

A day after John Bolton went to New York as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in early August last year, I had a chance to visit Turtle Bay. Soon after I had set foot into the U.N. headquarters, I knew something’s seriously wrong with the world body.

A photo exhibition telling the U.N. story was staged at the lobby. It stated that 51 countries signed the U.N. Charter as founding members on June 26, 1945 in San Francisco and one of them was the “People’s Republic of China”! This country, however, would not have existed until four years later, on October 1, 1949. That founding member, in fact, should have been the Republic of China. If the U.N. could even alter historic facts like this, I was thinking, then Mr. Bolton’s big stick was badly needed.

This reinforces my belief that, among all the factors contributing to the U.N. as a failed organization, China is a key obstacle. And as long as China remains one of the five permanent members, with veto power, at the Security Council, the U.N. has no hope of becoming a more decent body.

When the 61st U.N. General Assembly convened yesterday, Taiwan, for the 14th consecutive year, was rejected for its bid for membership. Sixteen nations, which still maintain diplomatic relations with the island democracy, were pushing for a discussion of the proposal titled “The Representation and Participation of the 23 Million People of Taiwan on the United Nations.” With China’s obstruction, the assembly’s general committee, a panel on which all 192-member U.N. members have a voice, made the decision by consensus, without a formal vote. “The nature of the proposal was to carry on ‘Taiwan Independence’ in the international community and China strongly opposes it,” Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman said. China claims it goes against Resolution 2758, adopted in 1971, which granted the PRC full legal status in the U.N.

1971 was the year when the U.N. switched its recognition of the Chinese capital from Taipei to Beijing. Taiwan, in fact, had a reasonable chance of staying on if it was willing to replace its official name, the ROC, with the “Republic of Taiwan” or simply Taiwan. The Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported last month that former Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, grandfather of Shinzo Abe who is almost certain to become Japan’s next leader later this month, paid a secret visit to Taiwan proposing the idea, also with the support of the British government, to Chiang Kei-shek. The Generalissimo’s reaction was a stern no.

So who’s responsible for Taiwan’s ever-increasing international isolation? Not the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party of President Chen Shui-bian as China and his domestic opposition would like others to believe, but the Kuomintang which ruled Taiwan until 2000. The KMT, of course, has never apologized to the people of Taiwan for this huge mistake. Otherwise, it could have saved Taiwan so much trouble. After trying with no success of getting back to the U.N. with its official name for years, Mr. Chen this year has decided to use the ROC in the first instance only and thereafter refers to the nation as Taiwan.

The myth of ROC perhaps only existed at the White House temporarily last April when the MC mistakenly said the ROC when the PRC’s national anthem was played during the welcome ceremony for China’s Communist Party chief Hu Jintao. In both the CIA World Factbook and a State Department profile of Taiwan, the words ROC is nowhere to be found. The country name is clearly Taiwan. Even though Mr. Bolton, as a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute before rejoining the administration, supported Taiwan’s wider participation in the international arena, regrettably he won’t be able to go against Washington’s policy and lend Taiwan any support in the U.N.

The island democracy, which received the highest ranking for its political rights and civil liberties in a report released by Freedom House last week on September 6, probably is more qualified than many existing members to belong to the U.N. I sympathize with the longing of the people in Taiwan for becoming a normal nation recognized by the international community. Back in 1991, I met a DPP activist named Frank Hsieh outside the U.N. when he led a delegation from Taiwan fighting for seat for his country. Who would have thought, at that time, the DPP would become a ruling party in 2000 and Mr. Hsieh would become the premier in 2005? As Taiwan’s Soochow University political scientist Chih-cheng Lo said, during a washingtonpost.com live discussion last Friday, when a questioner pointed out that Taiwan’s U.N. bid seemed hopeless: “Taiwan (ROC) had the veto power at the U.N. security council before 1971. But China (PRC) still entered the U.N. that year. So, Taiwan has to keep trying. We will never know what will happen in the future.” Nobody had predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, he added.

When China’s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, was interviewed by the New York Times Magazine recently in the U.N.’s Delegates Lounge, the reporter noted that Mr. Wang, a chainsmoker, “blithely violated the no-smoking rules.” After being rejected by the U.N. again this year, perhaps the Taiwanese should seriously ask themselves: Is this the club we really want to join?

Mr. Liu, a former chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and general manager of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, is a Washington-based columnist.


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