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UN Does Not Recognize Taiwanese Passport, Denies Entrance to Geneva Office

Some Taiwanese prefer to cover "Republic of China" on their passport with the sticker "Republic of Taiwan." Photo from the Taiwanese in Europe.

Some Taiwanese prefer to cover “Republic of China” on their passport with the sticker “Republic of Taiwan.” Photo from the Taiwanese in Europe.

Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations (UN) because of China's opposition given its territorial claim over Taiwan. This uncertain diplomatic status of Taiwan quite often results in humiliation for Taiwanese citizens in international events and on other occasions. The most recent incident had a Taiwanese citizen barred from entering the UN office in Geneva (UNOG).

On Sepember 15, 2015, when Yu-Ling Tsai, a Taiwanese citizen, traveled to Switzerland to visit the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), the receptionist at the entrance told her that her passport was not a valid identity document and asked her to present her national ID. After showing her Taiwanese ID, Yu-Ling Tsai was rejected again. The staff said UN did not accept the passports and national IDs issued by the Taiwan government. Moreover, the UN staff claimed that Taiwan was a part of China, and that she could thus only enter UNOG if she could present a passport issued by the People’s Republic of China. Tsai said in a Facebook post:

我是台灣人,我只有台灣護照。台灣不是中國的一部份,我從來沒當過中國人,我根本不可能有中國護照或是中國身份證。你要的東西,根本不存在啊。[…]這是聯合國對我的歧視。

I am Taiwanese and I only have a Taiwan-issued passport. Taiwan is not a part of China, and I have never been a Chinese citizen. It is not possible for me to hold a passport issued by the People’s Republic of China or a Chinese national ID. What you [UN] asked for does not exist.[…] This is UN’s discrimination towards me.

When the Taiwanese reporters made official inquiries at the UN about its regulations, UNOG spokesperson Rhéal LeBlanc said that although the UN welcomed people from all around the world for visits, it did not accept the passports issued by Taiwan (ROC). If the Taiwanese plan to visit the UN offices, LeBlanc added, they need to present a valid driver’s license or another ID. However, in Tsai’s case, her national ID was not accepted.

Though the UNOG told BBC that Tsai’s case is just a single occurrence, there have been other instances with similar circumstances. Taiwanese citizen Min-Shiuan Wang was rejected by the receptionist at UNOG on Jan 10, 2015 because the only identity document Wang held was a Taiwanese passport. Earlier in 2012, the same thing happened to another Taiwanese citizen.

UN has also rejected officials from Taiwan visiting their headquarters to attend their diplomatic meetings, if the Taiwanese representatives only presented their national passports. When Jing-Yi Lin planned to attend an official satellite meeting of UN’s Commission on the Status of Women held in New York this year, she was not allowed to enter the meeting because she held a Taiwanese passport.

Earlier in May 22, 2012, when the World Health Organization (WHO) Promotional Group from Taiwan planned to enter the public gallery at the World Health Assembly, those Taiwanese who presented their passports instead of their national IDs were rejected because the WHO staff told them they did not accept Taiwanese passports.

The director of the WHO Promotional Group and the former deputy director of the Ministry of Health in Taiwan, Hsing-Che Tu, believed that the rejection of Taiwanese passports was an act of humiliation:

從世界衛生組織的宗旨來看,世衛是歡迎任何一個世界公民進去旁聽的,只要能有相片的證件證明是你本人,就應該可以進去。這對每一國都一樣,因此,每國國民均持單一證件申請旁聽[…]但『中華民國』護照因馬英九堅持『一個中國』,就世衛立場看來,等於在挑戰其會員國『中華人民共和國』,等於要和『中華人民共和國』爭位子,中華民國要『重返』聯合國世衛,當然不能被接受。
雙證件的把戲只是在羞辱『中華民國護照』及國人,世衛中國籍的幹事長陳馮富珍想藉此向世界宣告「『中華民國』是不存在的,世界上只有一個中國,就是『中華人民共和國』」。

Based on the aim of the World Health Organization (WHO), it welcomes all citizens around the world to enter the public gallery at the World Health Assembly. Supposedly, as long as we hold a photo identity document to prove our identity, we should be able to enter. This rule should be applied to all countries, so everyone could enter while presenting one identity document.[…]However, because the Ma administration insists on the ‘one China’ policy, the passport of the Republic of China (ROC) seems to be a challenge to their member, the People’s Republic of China (PROC). Following this logic, ROC’s ‘return’ to the WHO is not accepted.
The so-called ‘double identity check’ [one passport plus another identity document] is just a trick to humiliate those of us who hold a Taiwan (ROC) passport. The present Director-General, Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun from China, tries to let the world know that ROC does not exist, and PROC is the only one to represent China in the world.

4 comments

  • Maaike De Wijs

    Very sad. I am from Holland and I have a son whose father is from Taiwan. Although we were indeed planning to get married, this was very hard to achieve because the Dutch government did not accept the Taiwanese documents. Later, my son’s father could not officially recognise his own child because of the same issue. In the end, we felt it would be better to split up so at least we could live our lives in peace, not having to worry about politics any more…

    • Kua Giān-Sū

      Hello Maaike De Wijs, I’m deeply interested in your story. I’m a Taiwanese and I have a British fiancé. Is it possible to have a email-interview with you? Would you like to talk about this “ROC document not being accepted” issue? My email is yanshiko@gmail.com I’m looking forwards to your reply.

  • xjp1953

    This is ridiculous. Holders of a Taiwanese passport enjoy visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival privileges to 161 countries and it is recognized by all other countries as well; so far I thought there is one exception only, China, and now it seems that UN too. Well, I would say, this is bad enough — for the UN’s reputation. Mr Tu’s remark “because the Ma administration insists on the ‘one China’ policy, the
    passport of the Republic of China (ROC) seems to be a challenge to […] PROC” shows the clear way: abandon the sick and distorted ‘one China’ policy. Hopefully the new administration will be able to make this step, Taiwan’s future rests on this.

  • […] pressure from Beijing. Taiwan does not have a seat (paywall) at the UN—and its citizens are barred from visiting UN buildings because its passport is not recognized—but it was allowed to participate in the […]

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