Taiwanese United Nations membership referendums, 2008

Nationwide referendum proposal 5
(See below for translation)
Location Taiwan
Date March 22, 2008 (2008-03-22)
Votes %
Yes 5,529,230 94.01%
No 352,359 5.99%
Valid votes 5,881,589 94.84%
Invalid or blank votes 320,088 5.16%
Total votes 6,201,677 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 17,313,854 35.82%
Website: Central Election Commission (in Chinese)
Nationwide referendum proposal 6
(See below for translation)
Location Taiwan
Date March 22, 2008 (2008-03-22)
Votes %
Yes 4,962,309 87.27%
No 724,060 12.73%
Valid votes 5,686,369 91.91%
Invalid or blank votes 500,749 8.09%
Total votes 6,187,118 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 17,313,854 35.74%
Website: Central Election Commission (in Chinese)
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Two referendums on United Nations membership applications were held in Taiwan on 22 March 2008, the same day as the presidential elections.[1]

The first referendum question, supported by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Chen Shui-bian,[2] asked whether voters agree that the government should seek United Nations membership under the name "Taiwan".[1] The second referendum question, supported by the Kuomintang (KMT), which on the same day won the presidential election,[2] 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.[1]

The 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 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.[1] 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

Both results were rendered void since turnout were below the minimum requirement of 50% of registered voters. Note that English translations shown are not official.

Proposal 5

National Referendum Proposal No. 5 was first initiated by You Si-kun (Yu Shyi-kun), former Premier of Taiwan 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”"

Question 5
Choice Votes %
No 352,359 5.99
Yes 5,529,230 94.01
Valid votes 5,881,589 94.84
Invalid or blank votes 320,088 5.16
Total votes 6,201,677 100.00
Turnout required 50.00
Registered voters and turnout 17,313,854 35.82

Proposal 6

National Referendum Proposal No. 6 was first initiated by Vincent Siew, former Premier of Taiwan and former Vice President.

Question 6
Choice Votes %
No 724,060 12.73
Yes 4,962,309 87.27
Valid votes 5,686,369 91.91
Invalid or blank votes 500,749 8.09
Total votes 6,187,118 100.00
Turnout required 50.00
Registered voters and turnout 17,313,854 35.74

External responses

 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."[3][4] 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.[5][6]

 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.[7] However, this referendum has not become a major political issue in either the United States or Japan.

 China: China 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.",[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Domestic reaction to international reactions

President Chen Shui-bian has accused both the United States and the European Union of caving into Chinese pressure over the referendum.[11]

Opinion polling

  • Referendum on applying for United Nations membership under the name of "Taiwan"
Polling firm Date Source For Against
TVBS17 July 2007 PDF4629
United Daily News14 September 2007 HTML4331
TVBS19 September 2007 PDF3451
TVBS18 January 2008 PDF3352
  • Referendum on flexible participation in international organizations
Polling firm Date Source For Against
TVBS19 September 2007 PDF1867
TVBS18 January 2008 PDF1768


  1. 1 2 3 4 Government Information Office of the Republic of China (2008), Referendum Proposals Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine., March 22, 2008 Presidential Election and Referendums – PRESS KIT Fact Sheet No. 6
  2. 1 2 "AP Interview: Foreign min says UN referendum is 'overwhelming sentiment' of Taiwan people", International Herald Tribune, 7/27/2007
  3. "USA State Department (2007-06-25): Taiwan U.N. Membership Referendum Opposed by United States". America.gov. Archived from the original on 2010-11-28. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  4. "(2007-09-14): US/Taiwan: Referendum tensions". International Herald Tribune. 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  5. Zogby International - Americans Want Taiwan to Have UN Seat
  6. Zogby Poll: U.S. Should Support Taiwan Archived February 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. "台灣入聯公投 81%日人支持" Archived 2007-10-29 at the Wayback Machine., Liberty Times, 10/27/2007
  8. "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.
  9. "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.
  10. 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)
  11. Wu, Debby (2008-01-01). "Taiwan: US caving to China on referendum". Boston Globe.


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