[JURIST] The Taiwanese Central Election Commission [official site] said Friday that it has approved two separate referendums on whether to proceed with a proposed bid for United Nations (UN) [official website] membership. The referendums, first announced [JURIST report] in June by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-Bian [BBC profile], will coincide with Taiwan's presidential elections scheduled for March 22. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party [party website] put forth one of the referendums, which seeks reinstatement to the UN under Taiwan's own name as a means of asserting the island's independence, while the opposing Kuomintang [party website; Global Security backgrounder] declined to specify a name in the language of the second referendum question. The vote may be largely symbolic, however, as Taiwan has faced harsh opposition to its membership bids in the past, primarily from China who possesses a veto on the UN Security Council and considers the bid to be a precursor to complete Taiwanese independence.
Taiwan [JURIST news archive], which officially refers to itself as the Republic of China (ROC), was kicked out of the UN by General Assembly Resolution 2758 [PDF text] and replaced by the People's Republic of China [JURIST news archive] as the representative of China in 1971. The ROC government retreated from the mainland in 1949 following its defeat in the Chinese Civil War. Taiwan has applied for reinstatement to the UN for each of the last 15 years though each application for membership has been rejected [JURIST report]. AP has more.