Fri, May 30, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Shame on the UN and shame also on China

By George Thompson

On Friday May 23 the UN barred Andrew Hsia(夏立言), Director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, from addressing the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) about recent developments on the SARS situation in Taiwan and Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Assembly (WHA).

Eleventh-hour strong-arm tactics by China pressured UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Beijing spearheaded this incident as part of its ongoing campaign against international recognition of Taiwan as an independent sovereign nation.

Thus far, much of the criticism of China and the UN has focused on the issues of Taiwan's freedom of access to the UN and the freedom of the UNCA to invite whomever it wishes.

Equally as important, given that much of the briefing would have concerned the SARS situation in Taiwan, the UN should have been much more supportive of the scheduled event, which it had previously approved.

Given that the SARS epidemic originated in China, Beijing should be much more sensitive. It is one thing to oppose Taiwan's bid for member ship in the WHA. It is quite another matter to interfere with efforts to communicate about SARS.

Both China and the UN shirked their responsibilities to the global community, China by pressuring the UN, the UN by yielding to the pressure. Both the UN and the Chinese government should be ashamed of such behavior. Both owe Taiwan and the international community at large a public apology.

China's actions exhibit a bitter immaturity that should not be tolerated by the UN or by the international community at large. It is bad enough that the lack of transparency on the part of the Chinese government contributed to the global spread of the SARS virus. It is inexcusable to follow up such questionable behavior with actions that interfere with attempts to communicate progress and ongoing conditions related to the SARS epidemic.

China's government should not have been surprised when Taiwan rejected its offer to send personnel and supplies to help Taiwan battle SARS. The action appears to be a case of "too little too late," and far short of the apology that the international community and the people of Taiwan deserve.

George Thompson is an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Foreign Languages at Kai Nan University in Taoyuan.

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