U.N. Omits Taiwan in Celebration of Woman Presidents

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen speaks during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Palace in Taipei on October 10, 2019. - President Tsai Ing-wen pledged October 10 to defend Taiwan's sovereignty, calling it the "overwhelming consensus" among Taiwanese people to reject a model that Beijing has used to rule …
SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations (U.N.) omitted Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen from a celebration of women leaders on International Women’s Day, drawing criticism from Taiwan’s foreign ministry Sunday.

“Women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader,” the U.N. wrote in a Twitter statement March 6 ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it chose to “challenge” the U.N. to “make a correction” to this tally and include Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, in the official count.

“Women serve as heads of state or government in only 23 countries, not 22,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a direct reply to the U.N. post on March 7.

Tsai Ing-wen is Taiwan’s first woman president. She has served as the East Asian nation’s democratically-elected leader since 2016. Tsai is the current chair of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a Taiwanese anti-communist party known for its opposition to Chinese influence in Taiwan. The sovereign island is located off China’s southeast coast on the northern edge of the South China Sea.

China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province. The Asian giant uses its political influence to blacklist Taiwan from membership within international organizations, such as the U.N. The political sabotage is part of a greater campaign by Beijing to prevent Taiwan from successfully operating as an independent nation.

Taiwan News reported in December 2020 that recently enacted U.N. rules preventing Taiwanese nationals from participating in all United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) events. Taiwan’s foreign ministry confirmed the ban on December 6, revealing that “under Chinese pressure, UN agencies, including UNESCO, have improperly prevented Taiwanese from participating in UN system-related activities for a long time and that this ‘unreasonable suppression’ is now being expanded to academic activities.” The ministry “vowed to continue to protest against UN discrimination and demand corrections” to the exclusion in the future.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed last spring the U.N.’s official health body, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), had turned down at least 70 percent of Taipei’s requests for technical meetings. The ministry made the revelation after the W.H.O. claimed on April 15 that it had “always maintained contacts and exchanges with Taiwan.” The statement prompted Taiwan’s foreign ministry to disclose the repeated meeting denials the next day. Taiwan was allowed to attend just 57 out of 187 W.H.O. meetings between 2009 and 2019. Most of the allowed meetings required Taiwan to comply with excessive application procedures, Taiwanese government officials said at the time.

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