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Going Our Own Way


On 3 August 2002, in a telecast to the annual conference of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations meeting in Tokyo, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian called for a referendum on Taiwan's future. President Chen stated that holding a referendum was a basic human right of the Taiwanese that cannot be deprived or restricted, and said: "Taiwan's future and destiny can only be decided by the 23 million people living on the island."

Mr. Chen told the conference that it needs to be clear that "…with Taiwan and China on each side of the Taiwan Strait, each side is a country." He added: "Our Taiwan is not something that belongs to someone else, Our Taiwan is not someone else's local government. Our Taiwan is not someone else's province."

Mr. Chen's comments, which were in native Taiwanese -- as opposed to the Mandarin dialect brought over from China by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists -- were warmly welcomed by the conference. The WFTA is the major umbrella organization of overseas Taiwanese. Its members have been among the strongest advocates of Taiwan independence.

Below, we present an overview of recent reports, as well as more detailed arguments why Taiwan should be allowed to take its rightful place among the family of nations.

Overview of press reports

Why Taiwan should go "its own way"

The perception that Taiwan is somehow "part of China" is false. It is the result of more than 50 years of indoctrination, both by the Chinese Nationalists who came over to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communists who took over China in 1949.

Neither of these positions allowed any room for the views of the native Taiwanese, 85% of the population of the island.

The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 began a new era in international relations, and prompted a long series of declarations of independence in Asia and Africa. Because of a fluke accident of history -- the occupation of Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek's armies fleeing from China -- the Taiwanese people were not able to join the international family of nations as an independent nation right away.

Over the past five decades, the Taiwanese have, through their hard work and ingenuity, achieved one of the most prosperous economies of East Asia, and also brought about a full-fledged democracy.

Some international observers argue that we should not raise the Taiwan issue, saying that Taiwan's entry into the UN is impossible because China has a permanent seat in the Security Council and will block any attempt to let Taiwan join the UN.

We believe that such a position is indefensible and totally wrong: the world should not let itself be intimidated by a repressive and dictatorial China. It should stand up for the principles on which the UN was founded: freedom, democracy, equal rights and self-determination of peoples.

In particular Western nations, which seem so eager to trade with China, have the moral obligation to make it clear to China that its acceptance as a full partner in the international community hinges on its recognition of Taiwan as a friendly neighbor.

For China, the new Taiwan is thus not the old rival from the days of the Chinese Civil War on the mainland (a myth perpetuated by the former Kuomintang authorities for many decades), but a new neighbor, which wants to live in peace with all its neighbors, including the big brother across the Straits.

Our Appeal

We thus appeal to the rest of the world, and particularly the United States and Europe, to live up to the principles of universality and democracy on which the United Nations were founded, accept Taiwan as a full and equal partner, and recognize it under the heading of a new "One Taiwan, One China" policy.

A new "One Taiwan, One China" policy would not alter international recognition of the government in Beijing as the rulers of mainland China, but it should specifically refer to the provisions of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, in which the members of the United Nations decided that "...the future status of Taiwan will be decided in accord with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations".

As part of this new policy, the international community needs to express clearly that:

  • in accordance with Art. 1.2 of the UN Charter -- it is the inalienable right of the people of Taiwan to determine their own future, free from outside coercion,
  • the people of Taiwan have a right to membership of their country in the United Nations under the name "Taiwan", and
  • it is in China's own interest to accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, end hostilities towards the island, and move towards peaceful coexistence, instead of perpetuating an old and anachronistic Civil War. The Taiwanese themselves didn't have anything to do with that Civil War and their future should not be held hostage to it.