Aug 21 (Reuters) – Central America’s parliament voted on Monday to expel Taiwan after more than two decades of permanent observer status and replace it with China, whose growing economic clout in Latin America has increasingly marginalized Taipei.
The six-nation parliament, known as the Parlasin, met in Nicaragua’s capital Managua where local lawmakers proposed adding China, which claims to democratically rule Taiwan, as its own territory.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had decided to withdraw from Parlasin immediately in order to preserve “national dignity,” and condemned what it called China’s efforts to suppress Taiwan’s international participation.
In a statement, Parlasin referred to the UN decision to expel Taiwan in 1971 in favor of China, saying this considered Taiwan “a province of mainland China, which makes it ineligible to participate as an independent country.”
Beijing has expanded its influence in Central America, with members of parliament Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan in recent years.
Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America, is the only parliamentary country that still recognizes Taiwan.
US Senators Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, who lead the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, condemned the vote.
“Since 1999, Taiwan has served as a strong partner in its role as permanent observer to the Central American Parliament, promoting good governance and economic development in our hemisphere,” the senators said in a joint statement.
The senators also accused China of undermining democracy, impeding regional growth and subjecting the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region to countless human rights abuses including genocide.
China has strongly denied any abuses in Xinjiang. Its embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Belize and Paraguay also maintain relations with Taiwan, although US officials believe Paraguay could be the next country in the Americas to switch loyalties.
The United States recognizes China diplomatically but has unofficial relations with Taipei, and the Biden administration has said it opposes efforts to change the status quo in Taiwan.
(Reporting by Ismail Lopez; Prepared by Mohamed for The Arabic Bulletin) Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Sarah Moreland
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