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Bullying Taiwan

In China's quest to dominate Taiwan, no arena is off-limits and no insult is too petty.

12:00 AM, Sep 22, 2004 • By TIM LEHMANN
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IT HAS BECOME de rigueur for China to oppose Taiwan's status as a self-governing nation at every possible turn. As two events last week demonstrate, Beijing's determination to squeeze Taiwan continues unabated, with scant opposition.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian appealed on Wednesday for the 12th time in as many years for Taiwan's membership in the United Nations. In his address Chen championed Taiwan's economic performance, citing the fact that Taiwan ranks as the 25th largest trading nation in terms of two-way trade. He also highlighted its political relations with other U.N. nations, 25 of which maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Once again the bid failed, as China mobilized 93 countries to speak against Taiwan's proposal. Yet China was not fully content with its diplomatic victory. It then requested that Chen's subsequent address to journalists via video-link from Taipei take place not inside the U.N. building (where it was originally scheduled), but at a hotel across the street. The Chinese request was made to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, without the consent of the head of the U.N. Correspondents Association (UNCA), Tony Jenkins. Jenkins later criticized Annan's decision to bar Chen from speaking at the UNCA, equating it with censorship.

It was curious that Chen should be singled out in not being allowed to speak at the UNCA. After all, the UNCA has traditionally been a "free speech zone," Jenkins pointed out to Annan, noting that the UNCA has in the past permitted a wide range of individuals and groups to speak on its premises, including a number of groups of dubious repute, such as the IRA, the Taliban, and the Iranian People's Mujahadeen.

CHINA'S EFFORTS to thwart Taiwan aren't limited to high politics, either. Elsewhere, in Greece, China couldn't resist the opportunity to interfere with Taiwan's participation in the world of international sport. Taiwan's first lady, Wu Shu-jen, arrived in Athens a week ago Sunday with the intention of leading Taiwan's delegation at the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Paralympic Games, a parallel event to the Olympics dedicated to athletes with disabilities. Wu, the emeritus president of the Chinese Taipei Paralympic Committee (CPTC), has been paralyzed from the waist down since 1985.

Once it became clear that Wu would lead Taiwan's athletes, China attempted to strong-arm the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) into revoking Wu's status as head of the "Chinese Taipei" (Taiwan's name at international events) team. China, which claims sovereignty over self-governing Taiwan, had averred that Wu's presence at the Paralympics would politicize the games.

Early in the week, the IPC bent to China's will and disqualified Wu from leading the team, stripping her of her National Paralympic Card on the ostensible grounds that she was not the official head of the CPTC. This decision, too, was taken at China's insistence, even though the IPC knew her status in August when it issued her the card. In response, Taiwan submitted an official protest to the IPC, pointing out that many of the other delegations to the games--including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, and Korea--were not headed by the presidents of their national paralympic committees.

After a series of negotiations, the IPC split the difference. They allowed Wu to retain her credentials as the head of the CPTC, but barred her from participating in the games' opening parade.

Tim Lehmann is assistant director of the Project for the New American Century.