Comments by the Minister, Taiwanese Government Information Office
By Shieh Jhy-wey
We live in a good world, with good people in it. The human race has shown time and again that a spirit of compassion and love can overcome adversity, fear, injustice, and aggression. Even when natural disasters, famines, disease, conflict, terrorism, and tyranny do their worst, this indomitable spirit marches on, manifesting itself every day around the globe.
Though we are just seven years into the new millennium, we have already seen humanity meet many tragedies with a great outpouring of support that has saved and transformed countless lives. Perhaps the most striking example of this came at the close of 2004, when an underwater earthquake caused a tsunami, killing people in nations from Indonesia to South Africa. In the wake of the devastation the world opened its heart, rushing supplies, medical personnel, and financial aid to the region to help people rebuild their lives. Nearly $7 billion has been pledged by people from every nation and all walks of life to help these nations rebuild.
Almost a year prior to that catastrophe, an earthquake in Iran leveled the city of Bam, causing nearly 80,000 casualties. Nations across the world—including states not on the best of terms with Iran—rushed supplies and search-and-rescue teams to the area, saving countless lives.
Relatively well-off nations have, in their turn, also been the recipients of humanitarian assistance and spiritual support. After Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans in 2005, challenging the ability of the world’s strongest nation to bounce back, charity on a global scale was again the order of the day.
In September of 1999, an earthquake devastated central Taiwan, killing over 2,000 and doing billions of dollars in damage. Rushing to the scene were rescue teams from all nations. Relief aid also flowed from around the world to quake victims, and the people of my home country Taiwan have not forgotten.
The government, organizations, and people of Taiwan are always among the first to respond to a disaster. Showing solidarity with the tsunami victims, Taiwan was the eighth-highest donor of cash and supplies, with over half of Taiwan’s 23 million people making a contribution. In response to the 2003 earthquake, volunteers from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation rushed to Iran to help rebuild schools and distribute donated food, medicine, and supplies. Millions of dollars in cash and goods were donated in the wake of Katrina to people in the United States by the people of Taiwan, who remember clearly the aid provided to them just a generation ago by the American people.
Yet the human spirit knows more than just how to recover—it also knows how to build. The continued integration of the states of Europe testifies to this, as people divided by language, culture, and historical interpretation have joined together under the banner of the European Union, adopting a single currency and working to cooperate on all fronts.
Meanwhile, we have seen freedom spread in the past few years as oppressed people in the Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan have thrown off the shackles that bound them in the so-called color revolutions. As they moved to reify President Woodrow Wilson’s vision of self-determination, these people’s success depended a great deal on the support offered them by the community of democracies, as does that of all peoples determined to fight for freedom and human rights.
Not so very long ago, on September 12, 2001, a quiet recognition of our inseparability as human beings defined the spirit I am speaking of. As the rubble from the World Trade towers smoldered in the streets of New York City, the French newspaper Le Monde published an editorial entitled simply: Nous sommes tous Américains – “We Are All Americans.”
The world has the opportunity to collectively address a different problem today. Of the nearly 200 countries in the world, Taiwan is the only one denied a seat in the United Nations. China, which makes unfounded claims to our nation’s territory, has pressured the UN to ignore the tenets of its own Charter, which grants the unconditional right of membership to all peace-loving states.
In seeking UN membership, we are not asking the world for a favor. We are challenging the world to return to the spirit of unity embodied the aforementioned editorial—to stand behind the oft-quoted principle that we are all created equal and realize that we are all in this together. We all have the power to help make this happen. Show your true colors. The people of Taiwan are counting on you.