2007 / 12月
the editors /photos courtesy of Alex Lin /tr. by Scott Gregory
In mid-September, on the eve of the United Nations' 62nd General Assembly, heads of state were joined by another guest in descending on New York: the Mazu idol from Hsinkang's Fengtian Temple was placed on a palanquin and paraded around the city streets. It was accompanied by celestial attendants Thousand-Mile Eyes and Fair-Wind Ears, heavenly generals, performance groups and more than 100 believers banging drums and gongs in a lively procession. The procession was meant to bring good luck to Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations. Though the bid was not a success, the procession did make the voices of Taiwanese heard.
To the 23 million people of Taiwan, the very words "United Nations" are a sore reminder of history. Every autumn for the last 15 years at the UN's annual General Assembly, non-member Taiwan has used every diplomatic channel possible to request that its allies speak in favor of its application for membership. Every year, stubborn resistance by China has meant that Taiwan is unsuccessful. Taiwan has felt every cold, hard blow of international realpolitik.
This year, the pursuit of UN membership has become an even hotter issue. The DPP administration has plans to apply for the first time to "join" the UN under the name "Taiwan," while the opposition KMT has moved to "rejoin" the UN under the name "Republic of China." With one side insisting on "joining" and the other on "rejoining," there will be two referenda on the ballot next March during the presidential election. The people will have their choice.
To raise awareness of Taiwanese about Taiwan's struggle to join the UN, from late October to mid-November the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Academia Historica put on a special exhibition called Look to the Past to Know the Future-A Look Back at the Nation's Withdrawal from the UN. It goes back in history to when the ROC became a member of the UN after victory in World War II and acted as one of five permanent members of the Security Council. However, after the KMT lost China's civil war in 1949 and retreated to Taiwan, a struggle for the right to represent China in the UN broke out. Taiwan sought to keep its original seat, but in 1971 the General Assembly passed Resolution 2758, allowing China to take its place.
In the 36 years since withdrawing from the UN and all of its subsidiary organizations, Taiwan has become an orphan of the global village, stripped of its rights and running into walls at every turn:
Taiwan is unable to join the World Health Organization. Thus, Taiwan was not properly equipped to deal with the 2003 SARS epidemic, and is to this day barred from participating in WHO programs for allocating vaccines and other supplies for disease control.
Taiwan is unable to sign the Nairobi Convention, making it unable to cooperate with other nations in stopping the flow of illegal drugs and weapons. That leaves a gaping hole in international anti-smuggling and anti-terror efforts.
Taiwan is unable to participate in the International Monetary Fund-it can only pray that it doesn't fall victim to a financial collapse or currency crisis.
Taiwan cannot work with the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, or the International Development Association. The developmental resources of these institutions are unavailable to Taiwan, and Taiwan misses out on the great business opportunities presented by their programs.
As a democratic nation with legal sovereignty, and the world's 18th largest economy, Taiwan has received unequal treatment. This situation is unreasonable and unnecessary. It is not only the pain of Taiwan but also the shame of the world.
In 1996, while Taiwan held its first direct presidential election under the threat of Chinese missile tests, the Mazu icon from Hsinkang was taken around the Penghu Islands to protect the Taiwan Strait. Now the Mazu icon has made another long trip, this time to New York to help in Taiwan's bid to join the UN. The Heavenly Mother Mazu takes pity on the people of Taiwan and protects them. But who knows when the United Nations-the supposed guardians of justice and equality-will finally offer membership to Taiwan?