Taipei, 17 February 1999
Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui is reportedly edging closer to the
position traditionally taken by the democratic opposition on the
At a Lunar New Year gathering is his hometown of Sanchih, he told
a festive crowd during a luncheon meeting: "It can be
said for sure that Taiwan is an independent state, Taiwan is Taiwan.
This is a clear matter." The address was reported by
several major local newspapers and by the Agence France Press news
President Lee added that the message would be conveyed to Beijing
when the two sides resume high-level negotiations.
The step represents another move by Taiwan to assert itself
internationally as a free, democratic and independent country. It
signals China that Taiwan wants to live in peace with its bigger
neighbor, and that a peaceful future between the two countries can
only be brought about if there is mutual diplomatic recognition
between Taiwan and China.
The two sides have been engaged in a running diplomatic -- and
sometimes military -- battle for several decades following the end
of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, when the defeated Nationalists of
Chiang Kai-shek were driven from China, and occupied neighboring
Taiwan, which had been under Japanese rule until the end of World
For more than four decades, the native Taiwanese (85 percent of
the island's population) were harshly repressed and did have little
say in the island's political system. Only after the end of Martial
Law in 1987, and the first democratic elections on the island in
1992, was it possible for an opposition party to function freely,
and were the people on the island allowed to express themselves on
the future of the island.
Since then, an increasing proportion of the population has
expressed its support for Taiwan's independence, and its
participation in the international community as a full and equal