Taiwan fiercely criticised the United Nations on Friday after its students were barred from visiting a public hearing in Geneva as Beijing seeks to further isolate the island internationally.

It comes after Taiwan was excluded from a major World Health Organisation meeting last month under pressure from China, which still sees the island as part of its territory.

united nations geneva
United Nations Geneva. Photo: Wikicommons.

Cross-strait relations have worsened drastically since Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen took power last year, with Beijing cutting off all official communication with Taipei.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Friday that it had protested to the UN over the latest incident.

“The UN claims to respect freedom for all, regardless of race, nationality, political or other identities… to serve the political purpose of a particular member nation goes against its mission,” it said in a statement.

The foreign ministry confirmed that a Taiwanese professor and three students had not been allowed to listen in on a UN Human Rights Council session at the UN’s headquarters in Geneva.

According to Chinese-language website UP Media, security officers told labour relations professor Liuhuang Li-chuan of Taiwan’s National Chung Cheng University and her students that their passports were invalid documents.

Tsai Ing-wen
Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Tsai Ing-wen, via Facebook.

They said that “Taiwan is not a country” and that the group needed China-issued identification, the report added.

Liuhuang sought help from the director-general of the UN Office at Geneva, Michael Moller, but said on her Facebook page that Moller told her nothing could be done as “Taiwan isn’t following the ‘one China’ policy”.

“Am I speaking to a spokesman for China?” Liuhuang wrote on her Facebook page.

A UN spokeswoman in Geneva told AFP: “(Moller) simply said that the UN does not recognise Taiwan and therefore, UN Geneva will not allow persons with Taiwanese ID documents onto its premises.”

She added: “Mr Moller did not make any other comment.”

President Tsai has refused to agree that Taiwan is part of “one China”, which Beijing says is a pre-requisite for maintaining relations.

The democratic island views itself as a sovereign country, though it has never formally declared independence.

It has been governed separately since Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek fled there in 1949 after losing a civil war on the mainland.

Chiang still saw himself as leading the “Republic of China”, which remains Taiwan’s official name.

Taipei held the “China” seat at the UN until 1971, when recognition was switched to Beijing.

The governments in Taipei and Beijing insist that countries can recognise only one of them as legitimate, and most have sided with China as its global and political clout has grown.

Taiwan participated in some international forums when cross-strait relations improved under former president Ma Ying-jeou.

But since Tsai took the leadership, it has been repeatedly shut out.

Beijing is also pressuring Tsai by trying to woo Taiwan’s dwindling allies.

Panama, for example, announced Tuesday that it was breaking diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognising China instead.

Taiwan is left with only 20 ally states, including the Vatican, and many analysts predict that number will shrink further.

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