“China, Taiwan: do not use ‘Taiwan.’ This area is considered, within the United Nations system, as a province of China, under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government in Beijing. In general, if it is mentioned, it should be referred to as ‘Taiwan, China.’ The expression ‘Chinese Taipei’ should only be used for the list of participants, summary records and similar documents of World Health Assemblies to which that entity is invited as an observer.”
So read a leaked WHO internal policy statement, which affirmed the denigration of Taiwan’s status at the global health body.
Anyone who takes pride in being Taiwanese and identifies with the Republic of China (ROC) would naturally be infuriated by this blatant disrespect of the country’s dignity. One would think President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would take the insult even harder, as he is the head of state and is supposed to represent the ROC’s sovereignty as stipulated in the Constitution. But no. Since disclosure of the “WHO house style” on Tuesday, not much opposition has been heard from the Presidential Office.
Last week, Ma shook his fist as he spoke of safeguarding Taiwan’s dignity in the face of the WHO name row. His seeming determination, however, failed miserably to materialize. Not only did Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) refrain from voicing an oral protest during his five-minute speech at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the so-called protest letter Chiu delivered to the WHO avoided asserting the ROC’s sovereignty. Chiu’s performance warrants mention only for how pathetic it was: He belittled Taiwan and his own official status in the letter by referring to himself as “Minister of Department of Health, Chinese Taipei.”
If Ma is determined to safeguard the nation’s dignity, he could instruct Chiu to hold up a placard that reads “under protest” during his WHA attendance as an observer, but, pitifully, he did not. Ma could also have directed Chiu to seize the opportunity by holding an international press conference on the sidelines of the WHA to make Taiwan’s stance on the name dispute known to all internationally. Again, however, Ma did not. So much for trumpeting the ROC’s sovereignty in his speeches and clamoring for the ROC centennial celebrations this year. Now that the time has come for the president to toughen up and assert the nation’s dignity and sovereignty, a wimpy response is all we see.
As a further example of Ma’s superficiality, the president, seeking re-election, has decided to name his campaign headquarters “Taiwan Cheers, Great! (台灣加油, 讚!)” and form a legion of campaign groups called “Taiwan cheer teams (台灣加油隊).”
The striking difference in how Ma and his administration deal with the sovereignty issue at home and abroad leads many to wonder whether the protest letter he sent to the WHO was just a part of his political playacting, and whether he is taking Taiwanese for fools.
Saying that Taiwanese feel flabbergasted is an understatement when describing the extent to which the Ma administration has misled its own people while wimping out on the international stage when it comes to asserting the nation’s dignity.