Referendum for Taiwan?

18 Sep

What is at stake if Taiwan declares Independence and becomes a member of the United Nations?

Last week, as many as 3000 marchers took part in a rally to support Taiwan’s UN bid in the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the UN building in New York. In the country itself, more than 100,000 according to the police, participated in a rally organised by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the southern port city of Kaoshiung to support a referendum for the country to be admitted into UN under the name of “Taiwan”. The Opposition Party, Kuomintang (KMT) organised their own rally at the central city of Taichung, but proposed the nation to be admitted to the world body under the moniker of “Republic of China.”

The news report from Time Magazine, Taiwan’s War of Words with the US, seems to suggest that the situation is reaching a certain point that has put US and China in a bind and difficult position.

As John Negroponte was quoted in the report,

“The State Department has regularly said the U.S. opposes Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that require statehood, including the United Nations and the World Health Organization.”

An opinion poll released earlier this month by a Taipei-based think tank also discovered that up to “47% of respondents disagreed with the U.S.’s position on U.N. membership, and three-quarters said they already see Taiwan as independent.”

That Taiwan should become a member of the UN is without much doubt.

Academic and professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, Ontorio Canada, Ramesh Thakur, in an op-ed page on the Times of India, Raw deal to Taiwan, wrote “it was unacceptable that Taiwan had been refused membership in the UN, denied observer status and did not figure in the UN’s statistical databases” considering that it not only has its own government but also territory. Moreover, he added, “Like South Korea, Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and a dynamic economy. Both countries embody fundamental UN ideals, values and aspirations.”

Former senior presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming has even placed an ad on the New York Times and the Washington Post asking Americans to pressurise their government not to “put Taiwan’s democracy and freedom back into a box”.

As Taiwan pushes for independence and a seat on the UN, China will be forced to take drastic measures as it is aware that allowing the former to be independent will likely motivate its other autonomous regions such as Tibet to follow the same path. China also faces internal dissent due to increasing wealth gap between its rural and urban communities amongst other environmental and human rights problems.

It does not help that US has decided to sell Taiwan US$2.2 billion worth of weapons, which has triggered protests from China. This is a situation that is gradually getting out of hand with a potential for war as both sides escalate and stockpile their weapons.

China needs to recognise that it cannot rule or defy the wishes of the Taiwanese who has time and again, expressed their desire for independence. The UN and other member nations need to defuse the crisis by allowing Taiwan to be part of its body, perhaps by having a UN General Assembly debate on the issue and passing a resolution that will recognise Taiwan as a sovereign nation. Similarly, regional groups such as ASEAN or EU could debate and release official statements expressing both the desire for peace in the straits and advocating support for Taiwanese democracy. Most importantly, the United States needs to stop the dangerous game of playing the mediator role as it is more likely to provoke and increase intense anti-American sentiments among the Chinese and Taiwanese in the middle to long run.

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