TAIPEI – Taiwan said its environment minister has been prevented from attending an annual U.N. climate meeting even with credentials as a non-governmental participant due to pressure from China.
It represents the latest case of self-ruled Taiwan not being able to take part in an international event because of opposition from China, which objects to the island it claims under its “one-China” stand being accorded anything akin to the status of an independent state.
Environmental protection agency minister Lee Ying-yuan had hoped to attend a U.N. climate change meeting in Germany, the island’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Monday.
“Due to China’s interventions, environmental protection minister Lee was unable to enter the UNFCCC meeting,” it said, referring to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have nosedived since Tsai Ing-wen was elected the island’s president last year. China believes she wants formal independence for Taiwan, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China but will defend Taiwan’s democracy and security.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Andrew H.C. Lee, told a news conference in Taipei the president believed climate change was an important issue and the island would endeavour to take part in international meetings to address it.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China’s position was very clear.
“On the matter of Taiwan participating in international events, China’s position is very clear; that is, it must comply with the One China principle,” Geng told reporters, without elaborating.
Since 2009, when Taiwan announced its intention to participate in U.N. climate change meetings, the government has helped officials get credentials for talks as non-governmental observers to attend the international meeting. Taiwan participated last year with a lower-level delegation.
Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, having lost the seat it held in China’s name in 1971 when the Communist government in Beijing assumed the position.
Under the previous Taiwan administration of the China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, Beijing permitted Taiwan to attend some U.N.-related events, including getting observer access at the annual U.N. World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva.
This year, Taiwan was shut out of the health assembly, which the island also said was due to China’s coercion and threats.
China has previously blamed Taiwan for its exclusion from international events, saying it is due to Taipei’s refusal to accept the “one China” principle.
Nationalist forces, defeated by the Communists, fled to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.