Saturday, July 28, 2007

"Taiwan applies for UN membership"

I've not written about politics for a while, partly because I've had so much other things to do, but this is one issue that really gets to me.

It may be boring, but this is something I'm been reading and writing about since I was young:
the issue of Taiwan! I was born there, and even though I only lived there a few years, I still few somewhat connected to that country. Basically, despite the fact it's a fully functioning country in every way possible, it is not recognised by most states in the world as a state. So it is not allowed to join the UN or any international organisation in which Statehood is a requirement.
A gross violation of international law and denial of the rights of the people of Taiwan to representation and security.

The following are things I wrote a few days ago and published elsewhere:

You may or may not (probably the latter) have seen this headline on BBC News a few days ago.

Poor little Taiwan knocking at the doors of the UN once again, and most certainly will be turned away and ignored like the international pariah it is. It's not the first time, and definitely will not be the last. With China wielding the veto power on the Security Council, and insisting that Taiwan is "an inalienable part of the motherland", chances of China ever approving Taiwan's membership is less than nihil.

By any objective standard, Taiwan is a sovereign and independent State, with a properly functioning government, 23 million inhabitants, identifiable territory, and also has the ability to engage in international relations. It is probably the most democratic and politically stable country in Asia, supported by a thriving economy and society. But, alas, it is openly shunned by the rest of the world like the plague, all because of China's propaganda and war mongering.

There are States ripped by turmoil and in which the government have ceased to exist, but they are still part of the family of States and recognised as such. Then there are oppressively authoritarian States that trample on basic human rights and intimidate its own population, but they are part of the UN. And then there are those 'evil' rogue States that flagrantly disregard international law, and even braver others that cause despicable humanitarian tragedies, and yes, they too are part of the UN. Taiwan is none of the above, but cannot even take part in the most basic international conference on matters of universal concern, like human health or the environment, because it is not recognised as a State. The irony.

One reason I study law because I was fascinated with its ability to defend the weak and restrain the strong in a world too often corrupted by the dictates of power and politics. Law’s power lies in its ability to speak back to power. Law’s authority lies in its, certainty, coherence and objectivity; in its ability to be blind and dispense justice on the scales of common morality and in the defence of human dignity.

Or at least in theory. And no where else is it more evident in the international arena. All States are equal, they say, but some more so than others. That is, if you are recognised as a State. If you are not, you are alone and isolated in this so-called international community that preaches equality, justice and universalism, but cowers in the face of hegemony and bullying tactics. Such is the sorry state of the world today.

Below is an excerpt from a paper I wrote at SOAS about the issue of recognition of States under public international law, with a special focus on the question of recognition of Taiwan:

That the proposed idea of recognition of statehood has moved from a constitutive to a declaratory view should, in the light of the Taiwan experience, be reassessed. Taiwan proves the effectiveness, legitimacy or even pragmatic tests for statehood are irrelevant. Instead, the current international order is dominated by an oligopoly of powerful states who can dictate, like the European colonial powers in the 19th Century did, who is allowed to belong and what is to be deemed a state, according to their interests and convenience.

International law revolves around states. A state may exist, and may be able and willing to shoulder all the rights and duties bound on members of the community of states, but the ultimate test of full subject-status under international law rests on its recognition by existing (superpower) states. The situation surrounding Taiwan's statehood offers an interesting overlap between the dominant realities of the ability of international politics to dictate international law, and the idealistic norms underpinned by human rights and peace that international law aims to pursue despite inhibitions from international politics.

Recognition is not a legal obligation, therefore it is often hijacked by political interests and objectively granted or withdrawn to serve certain, mostly that of big powers', status quos and realities. Taiwan’s relationship with its international counterparts is "fraught with ellipsis, indirect statements, and hidden meanings" . Though the international community has argued that the issue of Taiwan and its legal status should be up to China and Taiwan to decide, the nature of the question in straddling so many issues of international rights and duties and the potential impacts on world peace and stability, makes the issue one that is of the international community's concern and need for mediation.

The recognition of statehood is of great importance, because the existence or the lack of such recognition will dictate whether the candidate is deserving of the full protection, privileges and entitlements available in this state-centric world, regardless of whether that world is viewed through legal or political lenses. Exactly because recognition is such an important aspect of existence in the international community, it is also the most controversial, and one in which law and politics often intertwine.

And today I wrote this, after the UN rejected Taiwan's application for membership... again!

A letter was filed by President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan on the 19th of July, directed at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. In it, Chen formally applied for Taiwan’s UN membership in accordance with the rules and procedure as laid out under the Charter.

Five days later, President Chen’s letter is returned by the UN Office of Legal Affairs, and the application for membership outrightly rejected. A short statement was issued, rejecting the application. I tried to find the original statement, but it is no where to be found, and believe me I’ve searched in all over the UN website. Like the complete and utter denial of its existence in the world, no hits contain the word ‘Taiwan’.

So, according to news reports, the application for membership was rejected on the basis of GA Resolution 2758 (XXVI), entitled ‘Restoration of the lawful rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations’. That resolution was adopted in 1971, after the UN decided that:

“to restore all its rights to the People's Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it”.

Here is the joke behind this resolution.

When the UN was established, the war-ally and Chinese dictator Chiang Kai-Shek was allowed to sit alongside the big powers and take China’s seat in the organisation. Years before, his regime fled China to take refuge in Taiwan when the Communists triumphed and took control of China. Cold War politics, and unquestioning US support meant that Chiang’s regime was able to illegally conquer Taiwan and oppress its inhabitants, while at the same time claim that it effectively controlled over the hundreds of millions of Chinese from the tiny island of Taiwan. This pipe-dream and fantasy was able to flourish for some 26 years, while the Communist regime in Beijing was shunned aside and treated as persona non grata.

After almost three decades of political wrangling and protests, spearheaded by the Soviet Union, the UN finally realised it was unrealistic that the Chiang regime ever represented China.

Hence Resolution 2758—an infamous resolution that effectively admitted that for so many decades the UN had been so blind and foolish, and allowed itself to be so politically manipulated and deceived to have Chiang Kai-Shek and his cronies unlawfully occupy China’s seat in the UN.

Goodbye Chiang…

But what does this have to do with Taiwan? Nothing. Nothing at all. All Resolution 2758 did was restore the rightful and legitimate seat of the People’s Republic of China, period. There was complete silence regarding the status of Taiwan and to whom the territory belonged to. And this silence has existed since the end of World War II, when Taiwan was put under temporary control of the Allied Forces. The US and UK at the time had publicly declared that the status of this one-time Japanese colony was “undetermined”. The status of the island, and future of its people, had to be decided eventually at a peace conference or within the UN system. But that was that. All talk.

When China rightfully assumed its place in the UN, it reiterated and continues to reiterate that Taiwan is part of China. It makes claims on the basis of the historical, cultural, linguistic bonds between China and Taiwan, but none of it is founded in law or reality. Any attempt to bring the issue of Taiwan to discussion is met with stiff opposition or the veto.

The truth is China does not have any legal title to claim sovereignty over the territory of Taiwan. Nor does China have any control, effective or otherwise, over the territory and its 23 million people. If it did, it would not have to constantly threaten invasion and war, because it could just legitimately march in, hoist its red flag and establish its dictatorial regime there, and no one would protest. If China did control and legitimately own Taiwan, it would not have to constantly warn of economic retaliation and other “severe consequences” whenever other States deal with Taiwan.

So why was the application for membership in the UN rejected on the basis of Resolution 2758? A completely flawed argument lacking in any basis or reason. Just like that, dismissed without any discussion or whatsoever in the General Assembly or the Security Council, as is required by law under the UN Charter (Art. 4(2)). I’d not be surprised if Mr Ban was somehow pressured (or bribed) by China to dismiss the application as soon as it was filed. And this coming directly from the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs.

States like Tuvalu, with its meagre 10,000 people, and States like North Korea, with its open defiance of international norms, can all become and stay members of the UN. Yet, a country like Taiwan, with more a larger population than two-thirds of UN members, is barred time and again due to such inexcusable manipulations of the law. Those judges in the Admissions Case, who unequivocally and overwhelming held that admission into the world’s primary universal organisation cannot “juridically” be “dependent on conditions not expressly provided by Article 4(1)” of the Charter must be spinning in their graves.

I leave you with the words from the original application filed by Mr Chen… despite the invocation of the ‘international community’ (which as you know I loathe), they speak more than I, or justice, ever could.

“The international community of today chooses to disregard the efforts of Taiwan's 23 million people in their pursuit of dignity and peace. It would rather ask a country that advocates the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and peace to submissively remain silent when its identity is denied and security threatened. Whereas globalization draws nations and peoples around the world closer under shared interests and concerns, the United Nations has long excluded Taiwan from participation, erecting a wall against it and placing it in political apartheid. Such unfair treatment towards Taiwan is incomprehensible and unbearable.

The people living on the beautiful land of Taiwan desire their nation to become a member of the international community and make greater contributions to world peace and prosperity. I, as President, have been given a mandate by the people of Taiwan, and therefore have the responsibility to see realized their aspirations. Participation in the United Nations is a fundamental right of the people of Taiwan. The absence of Taiwan in the United Nations creates a gap in the global network for cooperation, goes against the ideals and notion of justice upheld by the United Nations, and moreover is ironic in light of the UN's principle of universality”.


To find out more, read this.

And here's a video clip by the Taiwanese heavy metal group ChthoniC...
I'm not normally a fan of this type of music, but the music and lyrics does say a lot about Taiwan's international isolation in the world today...

UNlimited TAIWAN Short Film (Not Music Video)

Aan mijn Profiel Toevoegen | Meer Video's

I'll stop here before you fall asleep.... if you're still awake!

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