The U.N.'s second-highest-ranking official unexpectedly backed the idea that the body should end Taiwan's exclusion from the U.N.'s work on sustainable development after a question by National Review. But only an hour later, a U.N. spokesman contradicted her, repeating Beijing's talking points on the matter.
"I think exclusion of anyone holds back the goals. We said leave no one behind, and I think that the states have to find a way to make sure that we are not in that position where we're excluding people," deputy secretary general Amina Mohammed said, responding to NR’s question.
"Every person matters, whether it's Taiwan or otherwise, and I think it's really important for member states to find the solution to that."
At a presser on Sustainable Development, I'd asked DSG Mohammed if Taiwan's exclusion from the U.N. holds back efforts on development. (TW nationals not even allowed into U.N. buildings.)
It's unusual for U.N. officials to call for ending Taiwan's exclusion, as Mohammed did. pic.twitter.com/GRWloFJdTJ
— Jimmy Quinn (@james_t_quinn) September 15, 2023
At a press conference to kick off a U.N. summit on sustainable development, Mohammed had been asked whether Taiwan's exclusion from the U.N. holds back the world's pursuit of its Sustainable Development Goals, given that Taiwanese passport holders are barred from accessing U.N. buildings.
In a statement to NR, Taiwan’s de facto U.N. ambassador, James Lee, called Mohammed’s comments “encouraging.”
“We must not forget: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.’ We need to address the unjustified exclusion of Taiwan's 23 million people from the U.N. system now,” he said. “Taiwan is a force for good and the world's helping hand.”
U.N. officials rarely voice opinions that could be construed as supporting the island country, for fear of running afoul of the pro-Beijing outlook that China has allegedly pressured the body's secretariat into adopting.
The U.N. leadership's line has been that a 1971 resolution forces the international body's bureaucracy to reject Taiwan and instead implement its own "one-China policy" that favors Beijing. Some experts dispute this, saying that the resolution calls for no such thing.
The wholesale prohibition on the use of Taiwanese passports to enter U.N. facilities came after the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, whom the Chinese Communist Party views as an enemy, and Taiwan had previously participated in some U.N. functions after 1971. Now, the U.N. secretariat won't even refer to Taiwan without implying that it is governed by the mainland.
But the Taiwanese government is urging the world to support its participation in the U.N., and other democracies are backing those ambitions.
"We must recognize that Taiwan has much to offer to the international community and multilateral institutions. The U.S. encourages all U.N. member states to join us in supporting Taiwan's robust, meaningful participation throughout the U.N. system and in the international community, which is consistent with our one-China policy," a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N. told National Review.
Not everyone is on board with that — and the detractors include the team of U.N. secretary general Antonio Guterres.
Only an hour after Mohammed's remarks this morning, a U.N. spokesman expressed that pro-Beijing view again, as a journalist grilled him on the U.N.'s stance in light of what she said.
"We don't intend to leave any of the people of China behind, and we support all of the people of China, but we stick by the one-China policy as has been decided by the General Assembly," said Farhan Haq, the deputy U.N. spokesman responding to the journalist's questions. Haq did not use the word Taiwan in his answers.
U.N. spox struggled to answer questions from @baysontheroad today on Taiwan's exclusion from the U.N., referring only to "China."
In the morning, deputy sec gen Amina Mohammed had spoken out against Taiwan's exclusion. It doesn't seem that Guterres's team thinks the same way. pic.twitter.com/N9qBL1JLUd
— Jimmy Quinn (@james_t_quinn) September 15, 2023
Pressed by the journalist on the fact that the U.N. doesn't accept Taiwanese passports, he said that the U.N. accepts passports and added that "your Chinese colleague has a sense of it for you," referring to an employee with a Chinese state propaganda outlet in the room.
Haq concluded the exchange by saying that excluding Taiwanese nationals from the U.N. is "in accordance with our interpretation of a General Assembly resolution," before quickly calling on a different reporter.
A spokesperson for China’s mission to the U.N. referred National Review to a recent statement by Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun. “The so-called Taiwan's participation in the UN is a false narrative through and through. First, there is but one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory,” the Chinese envoy said.