- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

With much self-congratulatory back-slapping today, Dec. 10, the United Nations will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Declaration is a noble document to which many U.N. members pay lip-service, and routinely violate.

In the aftermath of World War II - with memories of genocide and other atrocities still fresh - the delegates from 48 nations who gathered in Paris in 1948 were anxious to affirm the universality of human rights.

Thus, the UDHR’s preamble affirms that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

It goes on to affirm: “the right to life, liberty and security of person,” freedom from cruel or degrading punishment, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to a fair hearing by an “independent and impartial tribunal,” freedom of conscience and expression, freedom of religion, and the right to protest.

The document also proclaims “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government” - said will expressed in “periodic and genuine elections.”

While all this looks great on paper, the operation of the United Nations makes a mockery of UDHR. Nowhere is this more starkly revealed than in its treatment of China and Taiwan. These neighbors across the Taiwan Straits provide their own vivid contrast in the area of human rights.

After two decades of political reform, Taiwan is one of the freest countries in Asia. The first multiparty legislative elections occurred in 1991-92. Since 1996, Taiwan has had four presidential elections and two orderly transfers of power between the major parties.

Its people enjoy freedom of expression and worship, the right to fair trial by an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, the right to peacefully protest and freedom from arbitrary arrest, to the same degree as citizens of the more mature democracies.

The People’s Republic of China is to human rights what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to world peace. The Communist Party has a monopoly on political power, which it will do anything to maintain.

Freedom of protest? Think Tiananmen Square. Freedom from arbitrary arrest? Ask the Falun Gong practitioners consigned to China’s brutal penal system. Freedom of religion? Consider the fate of the home church movement.

The courts are controlled by the party, which directs verdicts and sentences in political cases. Beijing even periodically cracks down on the Internet.

Among other horrors, there’s a brisk trade in organs from executed prisoners. In some cases, removal of organs reportedly is the method of execution.

The foregoing notwithstanding, China is an honored member of the United Nations. It’s a permanent member of the Security Council. In perhaps the ultimate irony, China sits on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Taiwan is a virtual pariah. Of 192 U.N. members, only 24 have diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Though a founding member of the United Nations, Taiwan was expelled in 1971 when the People’s Barbed-Wire Enclosure was admitted. Taiwan has tried to regain membership in the world body, in some form or fashion, since 1993. Only one thing stands in its way - China.

Thus, one of the world’s worst human-rights abusers has kept a country that scrupulously respects human rights out of the body that promulgated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In light of warming relations with the mainland, Taiwan hoped this year it could at least get a consideration of its participation in specialized U.N. bodies - like the World Health Organization.

This modest request was brusquely rebuffed. Under pressure from Beijing, on Sept. 17, the chairman of the General Committee (which sets the agenda for the General Assembly) ruled that because of a “lack of consensus,” Taiwan’s participation in the United Nations would not be considered at the General Assembly’s 63rd session.

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not explicitly include the right of a people to participate in international organizations, such a right is surely implied.

And such a right has consistently been denied to Taiwan’s 23 million people. On Dec. 10, what’s to celebrate?

Don Feder is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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