A confidential WHO memo that recently surfaced directed staffers to refer to Taiwan as “Taiwan, Province of China.” This is not only clearly at odds with the use of “Chinese Taipei,” the name under which Taiwan is represented in the observers’ gallery of the World Health Assembly (WHA), but also seriously demeans Taiwan, suggesting that it is a province under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The very idea runs counter to the “one China, each side with its own interpretation” policy of the government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
It is no wonder that, under the fierce admonitions of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Ma government protested to the WHO and Beijing authorities, expressing its resolve to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty. The question is, what other option does Taiwan have to protect its sovereignty beyond simply protesting?
As far as the Ma government’s interpretation of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution is concerned, there was little to protest against in the WHO decision to refer to Taiwan as a province of China because the WHO recognizes that, under the ROC Constitution, both Taiwan and mainland China are part of the territory of the ROC. However, according to UN General Assembly Resolution No. 2758, the PRC government has replaced that of the ROC as the only legitimate representative of China to the UN.
Consequently, calling Taiwan a province of China within the international organization of the UN is the same as regarding Taiwan as a province under the jurisdiction of the PRC, while the ROC government, the democratically elected de facto government of Taiwan, is no longer regarded as legitimate in the international community.
This is another reason why the government should protest to the WHO.
It is quite apparent that the government should protest to the WHO that Taiwan is not a province under the jurisdiction of the PRC. The WHO, however, could respond that it had only used the term “Taiwan, Province of China,” not “Taiwan, Province of the PRC.”
Also, remember that as far as the UN and all its related institutions are concerned, the PRC replaced the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China in 1971, and unless the Ma government intends to wrest that status back, any protests that Taiwan is not a province of China are not only unconstitutional (in terms of the ROC Constitution), they also create the existence of “two Chinas” in the international community.
So far, the Ma government has refrained from adopting a policy to restore a UN seat for the ROC, as it is deeply fearful that to do so would wreck relations with China.
On the other hand, even though Taiwan is prioritizing reconciliation through cross-strait ties, Beijing authorities are continuing to apply pressure on Taiwan in its participation in international events.
Whereas on the surface Beijing seems to have allowed Taiwan to attend the recent five-day WHA convention as an observer, Chinese officials have also unilaterally insisted that in all documents between international organizations, Taiwan is to be referred to as a province of China under the jurisdiction of the PRC. This idea first emerged in 2005 with the passage of Beijing’s “Anti-Secession” Law, the confidential memorandum of understanding between China and the WHO being incontrovertible evidence of this.