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Interview with U.N.: Taiwanese passports unacceptable – but not these other official documents

Taiwan passport rejected

Why do the United Nations not recognize the Taiwan passport?

It was a big media story in Taiwan: When trying to visit the U.N. office in Geneva, a Taiwanese woman was denied entry. The reason, she was reportedly told: Since the United Nations do not recognize Taiwan, her Taiwanese (ROC) passport cannot be accepted either. I wanted to know: What’s going on there? Listen to this interview with a U.N. spokesperson.

To get first-hand information, I asked a colleague of mine who lives in Geneva for help: Marc Engelhardt, a specialist for reporting on the United Nations. He managed to ask the U.N. spokesman in Geneva, Rhéal LeBlanc, some questions about Taiwan and the passport refusal.

First, listen to his anwers in this video:

(It has Chinese subtitles. Click on the symbols below the video if you don’t see them.)

So what have we learned?

The U.N. indeed does not accept Taiwanese passports

According to LeBlanc, this policy has been in effect for a long time and has not been changed recently.

The Foreign Ministry in Taipei, however, stated that there have only been „some cases in which Taiwanese nationals have been denied entry to the U.N. office in Geneva or the U.N. headquarters in New York, despite presenting their passport as the required document.“

Taiwanese driver’s licenses or „social security cards“ are okay

So if you are a Taiwanese and plan to visit U.N. buildings, you are better off leaving your passport in your pocket and presenting other forms of photo ID. Although I am really wondering what good these controls are if any country’s health insurance card can get you in. Does U.N. security really have the means to check their authenticity?

Taiwan (ROC) passport

And what about the fact that these certificated have been issued by the very same authorities that also issued the non-recognized passports?

Also, what about residents of Kosovo or the Vatican, both of which are also not member states of the United Nations? Are they also sent back when they show up with their passports?

Switzerland itself, home to the U.N. institutions in Geneva, only joined the organization in 2002. Were Swiss citizens turned away?

This really only makes sense if you keep in mind that…

China is calling the shots in the U.N.

The PRC as a veto power is powerful enough to have the U.N. do pretty much as it wants, at least in regard to Taiwan. And Beijing will never admit that anyone on Taiwan has the authority to issue passports. ID cards or driver’s licensesare apparently not as serious.

While „Taiwan“ is not even mentioned in the notorious Resolution 2758 that in 1971 subsituted the ROC with the PRC as the state representing China in the U.N., spokespersons like LeBlanc need to toe the official line, which is:

The member state that is recognized by the international community is the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan being a province of that state. We recognize China. And so the passport of Taiwan is not recognized by the U.N.

And, if that was not clear enough:

We have to be respectful of our member states.

Or, one might add, of one specific member state.

Flag of China

Is it really that simple?

As recently as 2007, when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon observed that „the position of the United Nations is that Taiwan is part of China“, he was severely criticized, for example in this Wall Street Journal editorial.

It has also been rumored that the U.S. government behind the scenes lodged a strong protest against this statement. As far as I know, Ban has not repeated it since.

So what about the security allegedly telling the Taiwanese visitor to „come back with your Chinese passport?“

This nonsensical remark can probably not be verified. If U.N. personell really say something like this in the future, at least Taiwanese visitors can now be sure that they don’t know their own regulations.

And have that driver’s license ready.

Would you like to help me translate that video into Chinese, so I can add Chinese subtitles?

About me

I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this otherwise mostly German blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Plus.

English posts you might want to have a look at:

Klaus Bardenhagen

Klaus Bardenhagen


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