Taiwan Fights to Attend International Forums in 2017, Despite Beijing’s Interference

Taiwan Fights to Attend International Forums in 2017, Despite Beijing’s Interference
Photo Credit: Reuters / 達志影像
What you need to know

Here we go again: Taiwan’s participation in international organizations continues to be undermined and blocked by Beijing.

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Amid continued pressure from Beijing, Taiwan looks set to continue to receive the cold shoulder at a range of international events this year.

Despite efforts by the Taiwanese government to secure an invitation to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA) this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) secretariat has yet to decide whether or not to issue one to the country, Taipei Times reports. The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of the WHO and will convene this year from May 22-31 in Geneva. Taiwan still hopes to receive an invitation, but the deadline for online registration is May 8.

In light of Beijing’s efforts to undermine Taiwan’s position in the international community, it remains to be seen if Taiwan will eventually be invited to the WHA. However, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) has said he will lead a delegation to Geneva even if Taiwan does not receive an invitation.

Foreign Minister David Lee (李大維) said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is still working with Taiwan’s representative office in Geneva to obtain an invitation to the WHA, but “the outlook may not be so bright.”

Taiwan has held “observer status” at the WHA since 2009 and has participated since then at the assembly under the name “Chinese Taipei,” an arrangement agreed upon by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, the Chinese government, and the WHO, led by Margaret Chan, from Hong Kong since 2006.

However, after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in May 2016, Taiwan only received the invitation to attend last year’s forum two weeks before the WHA took place that year.

The late invitation cited the “United Nations Resolution 2758,” which restored the government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate representatives of China to the U.N. and expelled the “representatives of Chiang Kai Shek (蔣介石)” from the U.N., and the “one China” principle.

The WHO failed to provide Taiwan with the information needed to register for the WHA online.

Taiwan still participated in the WHA last year despite the late notice and the controversially phrased invitation.

The inclusion of the U.N. resolution and the “one China principle” was widely seen as political interference by Beijing, which has shut off all official communication channels with Taiwan, reportedly because President Tsai refused to acknowledge the “1992 consensus.” Beijing insists that the “1992 consensus” forms the basis for cross-Strait talks. The so-called consensus, whose very existence is questioned in Taiwan, includes a “one China” clause with both sides (or so Taipei insists) historically having separate interpretations of what “one China” means.

Beijing followed the move to limit Taiwan’s participation in the WHA by preventing Taiwan from taking part in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) triennial assembly from Sep. 27 - Oct. 7. The U.S. and several of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies lobbied the Montreal-based organization to include Taiwan, but reports emerged that the ICAO warned participants against “speaking out for other countries,” or their microphones would be muted. Taiwanese reporters were turned away from the event.

In September 2016, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs warned government officials against taking part in any of Taiwan’s National Day events, saying such action would “provoke China.”

Last year, Taiwan attempted to apply for observer status at the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) 85th general assembly for the first time in 32 years after Taiwan withdrew in 1984. Its application was rejected on Nov. 6, 2016. Foreign Minister David Lee said Beijing’s interference in the decision was “a very obvious factor.”

Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies have called for the U.N. to allow Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the U.N.’s specialized agencies like the WHO, ICAO, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Belgian and German politicians have also written statements calling for the inclusion of Taiwan in the ICAO and Interpol. China’s Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei was elected President of Interpol, and the next Interpol general assembly is set to be held in Beijing.

Timeline of Chinese interference in Taiwan affairs in 2016:

April 18-19: China asks the Belgian government to block Taiwanese representatives from a meeting during the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Steel Committee conference in Brussels.

May: Taiwan receives a late invitation to attend the WHA, the invitation cites U.N. resolution 2758 and the one China principle.

June: A Taiwanese study group was blocked from attending the International Labor Organization conference, despite having gained entry in previous years. The secretary general and a volunteer of the Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union were also denied entry to the conference.

June 20: Kyrgyzstan rejects the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps application to provide medical services to communities in remote parts of the Central Asian country due to political interference by Beijing.

June 24 - Sept. 20: Cambodia deports Taiwanese nationals suspected of telecom fraud to China.

July 11-15: Taiwanese officials are denied entry to the Food and Agriculture Organizations Committee on Fisheries meeting in Rome, Italy.

Aug. 7: Kenya deports five Taiwanese nationals to China after acquitting them of telecommunications fraud.

Sept. 4: The Chinese Embassy in Israel lodges a protest after the Ramat Gan City Council hung Taiwanese flags during a Ministry of Foreign Affairs Youth Ambassadors visit to the city.

Sept. 7: Armenia deports 78 Taiwanese nationals suspected of fraud to China.

Sept. 23: The International Civil Aviation Organization refuses to invite Taiwan to its triennial assembly. A Paraguay official tells reporters that the ICAO would mute the microphone of anyone who mentions Taiwan; Taiwanese reporters were blocked from entering the assembly.

Sept. 28: The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2016 lists Taiwan as Chinese Taipei, but the WEF issues a statement the next day changing the entry back to Taiwan, China, as in previous reports. The change in nomenclature was said to be a “technical error.”

Sept. 29: The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs warns government officials against taking part in any of Taiwan’s National Day events, saying such action would “provoke China.”

Oct. 3: Taiwanese NGOs fail to apply to attend any of the UNFCCC COP22 meetings. However, Taiwan still sent a delegation of representatives from the government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute.

Oct. 20: Taiwan’s Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) withdraws from the 2016 Hangzhou Cultural and Creative Industry Expo after the CIP’s full name was removed from their exhibit at the expo.

Oct. 27 - Nov. 29: Malaysia deports 21 Taiwanese nationals suspected of telecoms fraud to China.

Nov. 6: Taiwan’s first attempt in 32 years to attend the Interpol general assembly in Bali is rejected, Foreign Minister David Lee says interference from Beijing was “a very obvious factor.”

Nov. 11: China protests Taiwan Foundation for Rare Disorders chairman Tseng Min-chieh’s (曾敏傑) attendance at the launch of the NGO Committee for Rare Diseases in New York.

Nov. 17: The World Chinese Economic Summit, held in Malaysia, designates Former President Ma Ying-jeou as “former leader” instead of “former president.”

Dec. 21: Nurbek Alimbekov, Kyrgyzstan’s speaker of parliament, resigns after visiting Taiwan and meeting with Legislative Yuan chairman Su Chia-Chyuan (蘇嘉全).

Dec. 21-26: Sao Tome and Principe breaks of diplomatic ties with Taiwan and resumes ties with China.

Editor: Edward White