UNCA Challenges the UN in
kowtowing to China (June 5, 2003)
ago, on May 23rd, United Nations officials barred Andrew Li-Yan Hsia,
director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center, from attending a
press conference on Taiwan’s response to the SARS crisis, scheduled by the UN
Correspondents’ Association (UNCA). Despite his previous approval of the
event, and despite a long-standing tradition of non-intervention with UNCA
events, Secretary General Kofi Annan bowed to Chinese pressure to keep Taiwanese
representatives off UN premises. The UN’s top legal advisor, Hans Corell, had
advised Annan that Hsia’s appearance would constitute a violation of the
organization’s “one-China policy.” Annan’s spokesman defended the
decision, saying, “[Hsia] represented himself as an ambassador, as if from a
sovereign state. I believe that triggered a protest by the Chinese mission that
the Secretary-General felt was worth responding to.”
UNCA President Tony Jenkins expressed his
outrage at Annan’s actions, calling them a direct violation of freedom of the
press, and especially of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, which guarantees the right to “hold opinions without interference and
to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media.” In a
letter to China’s UN ambassador, Wang Wingfan, Jenkins noted that China is a
signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and must therefore abide
by its principles. He also invited Wang to a UNCA panel on the future of Taiwan
and its legal status.
Along with several other UNCA members,
Jenkins organized a rally on May 24th, protesting Hsia’s expulsion
from UN property. The incident and its repercussions have garnered press
coverage from several media outlets, including the Washington Post and Taipei
Ming-Chi, President of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), wrote
a letter to Jenkins expressing his gratitude for the UNCA’s continued support
for both freedom of the press and for an open discussion on various issues
related to Taiwan. Please see below.
June 3, 2003
Dear Mr. Jenkins:
I write today to you to express my admiration for your courageous action last
week of inviting China's ambassador to the United Nations -Mr. Wang Wingfan- to
a panel discussion on the future of Taiwan and its legal status.
I want to convey to you here today that all members of our organization, the
Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a Taiwanese American grassroots
organization which promotes freedom, human rights and democracy for the people
of Taiwan (www.fapa.org), are excited about your initiative.
They are dismayed though about the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's barring
of Mr. Andrew Hsia from attending a news conference last week on Taiwan's
efforts to gain entry into the World Health Organization, reversing a
long-standing policy of not interfering in events sponsored by the United
Nations press club.
It goes without saying that the members of our organization do not accept
China's unrealistic claim over Taiwan. The reality is that Taiwan today is a de
facto independent country. If it were not for the clout China wields over the
majority of countries around the world, including the United States, the
international community would have accepted that reality.
Based on the provisions of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which formally
ended World War II and which is the legal basis for the right of
self-determination for the people of Taiwan, China never receive sovereignty
over Taiwan. Taiwan today is a multiparty democratic nation. Never since its
founding has the People's Republic of China ruled Taiwan. Despite the incessant
threat of China, Taiwan today is gradually moving from being a de facto to de
jure independent country.
Although we believe that the chance that Mr. Wang will respond to your
invitation in a favorable way is minimal, I would like to again take this
opportunity to applaud your exciting initiative. I also hereby offer to you the
expertise and knowledge of our Washington DC headquarters to assist you in your
endeavor in whatever way possible.
If you need additional information, feel free to call Mr. Coen Blaauw at
Thank you for your support.
Ming-chi Wu, Ph.D.
Mr. Wang Wingfan
Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
Representative of the People's Republic of China
the United Nations
East 35th Street
York, NY 10016
behalf of the Executive Committee of the United Nations Correspondents
Association, I am writing to vigorously protest the role of the Mission of the
People's Republic of China in the events that led to the disruption of the press
briefing by Andrew Hsia, the Director General of the Taipei Economic and
Cultural Office in New York, who was due to speak to the UNCA in its club last
Friday, May 23rd, about the SARS crisis and Taiwan's efforts to work with the
World Health Organization. Because of this disruption, we found ourselves
obliged to conduct our conference on the sidewalk of First Avenue, removed
physically, if not in spirit, from our home inside United Nations Headquarters.
has disturbed relations between the press and the Secretariat, and it has done
serious harm to the image of the PRC within the UN Press Corps.
you know, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which
China is a signatory, states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of
opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any
media and regardless of frontiers."
China, I understand, the media are still subject to strict government
censorship, but the headquarters of the United Nations is government by a higher
code: that enshrined in Article 19 quoted above. The UN stands for transparency
in the conduct of the affairs of state and as a watchdog for press freedom. That
is why the UN invented World Press Freedom Day, which we recently celebrated
here at headquarters.
these reasons, it is our firm belief that the Secretary General erred in bowing
to your request to block our press briefing and we will be taking up the matter
directly with him.
should like to point out that the UN Correspondents Association has frequently
organized briefing by speakers whose views are extremely hostile to those of
their member governments. To name just a few: We have had members of Sinn Fein
and the Irish Republican Army, at a time when they were still engaged in a
violent struggle to expel British authority from Northern Ireland. The British
government did not protest. We have had a representative of the Chechens
fighting against Russian rule who described himself as the Foreign Minister of
the independent Republic of Ichkeria. The Russians did not object. Jose Ramos
Horta came to speak to us many times, long before East Timor became independent.
The Indonesians did not object. We had Kurdish speakers, and the Turks did not
object. I could quote more examples, but my main point is that the more
sophisticated missions simply asked for a right to reply which we have always
been happy to host.
our opinion this tradition of using our club for the free expression of views,
no matter which government might object, is a long and honorable one and we have
no intention of allowing that right to be abridged by the People's Republic of
China or any other member state.
let me say that we are organizing a panel discussion on the future of Taiwan and
its legal status, with speakers from all shades of opinion. I wonder if you
would be prepared to participate in such a debate? Or if you prefer, we would be
happy to organize a separate briefing for you alone to address correspondents on
Bureau Chief, Expresso &
UN Correspondents Association
Nations Room S-360
York, NY 10017