Republic of China United Nations membership referendums, 2008
The first referendum question, supported by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Chen Shui-bian, asked whether voters agree that the government should seek United Nations membership under the name "Taiwan". The second referendum question, supported by the Kuomintang (KMT), which on the same day won the presidential election, asked whether voters supported "our nation" seek to "return" to the United Nations and join other international organisations under "flexible and practical strategies", including joining as "Republic of China", "Taiwan", or any other name that aids success and national dignity.
The ROC Central Election Commission has declared both referendums invalid due to low turnout. The presidential election held at the same time had a turn out rate at 76.33%.
The format of the referendums has been controversial, with much of the discussion occurring before the Republic of China transitional justice referendum held in January 2008.
Note that while the two referendums are each supported by one of the two major parties in Taiwan, they both stand formally as voter-initiated, rather than government-sponsored, referendums. Furthermore, while the KMT initiated one of the two referendums, it has encouraged its voters to at least boycott the DPP-initiated referendum, and expressed its understanding if supporters chose to boycott both referendums. In practice, while KMT officials such as presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou and chairman Wu Po-hsiung received ballot papers for the KMT-sponsored referendum, their family and other KMT officials, such as chairman emeritus Lien Chan refused to take ballot papers for either referendum. Former president Lee Teng-hui did not take either ballot paper, which he said was because he "forgot" to bring the documentation, although reporters at the scene pointed out to him that he did not need documentation to vote. The low number of voters participating in the referendums meant that neither reached the minimum threshold of participation by 50% of all eligible voters to become effective. DPP officials, including president Chen Shui-bian, called on voters to vote in both referendums.
Questions and results
National Referendum Proposal No. 5 was first initiated by You Si-kun (Yu Shyi-kun), former Premier of the ROC and former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party. The topic was "Application to become a new member of the United Nations under the name “Taiwan”"
|“||In 1971, the People’s Republic of China joined the United Nations, replacing the Republic of China and causing Taiwan to become an orphan in the world. To strongly express the will of the people of Taiwan to enhance Taiwan’s international status and participation in international affairs,
Do you agree that the government should apply for UN membership under the name "Taiwan"?
(Chinese text: 1971年中華人民共和國進入聯合國，取代中華民國，台灣成為國際孤兒。為強烈表達台灣人民的意志，提升台灣的國際地位及參與，您是否同意政府以「台灣」名義加入聯合國？)
|Invalid or blank votes||320,088||5.16|
|Registered voters and turnout||17,313,854||35.82|
National Referendum Proposal No. 6 was first initiated by Vincent Siew, former Premier of the ROC and current Vice President-elect.
|“||Do you agree that our nation should apply to return to the United Nations and join other international organizations based on pragmatic, flexible strategies with respect to the name [under which we apply to and participate in them]? That is:
Do you approve of applying to return to the United Nations and to join other international organizations under the name “Republic of China”, or “Taiwan”, or other name that is conducive to success and preserves our nation’s dignity?
(Chinese text: 您是否同意我國申請重返聯合國及加入其它組織，名稱採務實、有彈性的策略，亦即贊成以中華民國名義、或以台灣名義、或以其他有助於成功並兼顧尊嚴的名稱，申請重返聯合國及加入其他國際組織？)
|Invalid or blank votes||500,749||8.09|
|Registered voters and turnout||17,313,854||35.74|
Both referendums were invalidated since turnout were below the minimum requirement of 50% of registered voters.
United States: The United States Department of State has stated that it opposed a referendum on membership in the United Nations. While it strongly supports Taiwan's democratic development and is not opposed to referendums in principle, it is against "any initiative that appears designed to change Taiwan's status unilaterally." In September 2007, Zogby International conducted an opinion poll on the support of this referendum, the result shows over 61% of Americans believe that the US government should support the referendum.
Japan: A Japanese company also conducted a poll on the same issue; the result shows over 74% Japanese support Taiwan's entry into the UN, and over 81% support the referendum. However, this referendum has not become a major political issue in either the United States or Japan.
People's Republic of China: The PRC made relatively few comments on the issue. It argued that the referendum would "endanger peace and stability across the Strait and the Asia-Pacific region.", and was "pinning hope on the Taiwan people" and will keep promoting cross-Strait exchanges to strengthen opposition to secessionist forces. It had stated that it appreciated the US opposition to the referendum. After the referendums were defeated due to low voter turnout, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China commented that the results showed the lack of popular support for independence in Taiwan. The Bureau also expressed optimism for the two governments to work together to maintain cross-strait peace and aid development in future.
Domestic reaction to international reactions
- Referendum on applying for United Nations membership under the name of "Taiwan"
|TVBS||17 July 2007||46||29|
|United Daily News||14 September 2007||HTML||43||31|
|TVBS||19 September 2007||34||51|
|TVBS||18 January 2008||33||52|
- Referendum on flexible participation in international organizations
|TVBS||19 September 2007||18||67|
|TVBS||18 January 2008||17||68|
Note: Opinion polls may be subjected to sampling biases.
- Government Information Office of the Republic of China (2008), Referendum Proposals, March 22, 2008 Presidential Election and Referendums – PRESS KIT Fact Sheet No. 6
- "AP Interview: Foreign min says UN referendum is 'overwhelming sentiment' of Taiwan people", International Herald Tribune, 7/27/2007
- "USA State Department (2007-06-25): Taiwan U.N. Membership Referendum Opposed by United States". America.gov. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "(2007-09-14): US/Taiwan: Referendum tensions". International Herald Tribune. 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- Zogby International - Americans Want Taiwan to Have UN Seat
- Zogby Poll: U.S. Should Support Taiwan[dead link]
- "台灣入聯公投 81％日人支持", Liberty Times, 10/27/2007
- "PRC Taiwan Affairs Office (2007-09-24): Top adviser slams at Taiwan leader's UN "referendum" bid". Gwytb.gov.cn:8088. 2007-09-24. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- "PRC Taiwan Affairs Office (2007-12-22): China values U.S. reiterated opposition to Taiwan UN referendum". Gwytb.gov.cn:8088. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
- 国台办发言人:搞"台独"不得人心 期盼为两岸和平发展共同努力 (Spokesperson for Taiwan Affairs Bureau: Taiwan independence fails to win popularity; hopes to work together towards peaceful development of both sides of the Taiwan Strait)
- Wu, Debby (2008-01-01). "Taiwan: US caving to China on referendum". Boston Globe.