During the 40-years long struggle for democracy and human rights in Taiwan, those who advocated a free and democratic Taiwan invoked the right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter, and appealed to the international community to respect the right of the people on the island to determine their own future.
From the side of the then-ruling Kuomintang, the counter-argument was that self-determination did not apply to Taiwan, since it was not a colonial or occupied territory. This debate broke into the open again in Taiwan in early January 2003. Below is the contribution by Prof. Chen Lung-chu, one of the foremost scholars on the legal status of Taiwan: in the late 1960s and early 1970s he already published several major works on the issue.
By Prof. Chen Lung-chu, chairman of the Taiwan New Century Foundation. This article first appeared in the Taipei Times on 7 February 2003. Reprinted with permission.
On 31 December 2002 last year, the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights passed the third reading in the Taiwan legislature. This is a step on the way to turning these international covenants into domestic law, and as such it should be encouraged.
However, when ratifying these covenants, the Legislative Yuan attached the following statement: "The United Nations, in practice, only recognizes the right of national self-determination for occupied territories, trust territories and non-self-governing territories.
"The exercise of the right of national self-determination first requires the recognition and support of the United Nations' General Assembly ... The Republic of China has long been a sovereign and independent state, and does not need to exercise the right of national self-determination."
Foreseeing that this attached statement would be harmful to the nation, the DPP's legislative caucus had to put the brakes on the legislation and request a reconsideration.
Clearly the contents of the attached statement are incorrect and unnecessary and will harm Taiwan both internationally and domestically. The principle of national self-determination is not only clearly stated in the UN Charter, but it is also stipulated in the same clear and forceful wording in the first article of each of the two above-mentioned international covenants.
The first clause of that article states, "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." The second clause deals with a nation's wealth and resources, the "right of economic self-determination." According to the third clause, each party to the covenant "shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right."
The application of the right of national self-determination is not limited to peoples in colonial territories, and prior recognition by the UN General Assembly or its related organizations is not required.
National self-determination is a collective human right, the right of a people within a territory to build their state, maintain the independence and sovereignty of that state, prevent external pressure and intervention, strive for economic, social and cultural development, and decide their common political future.
Colonial rule, independence and sovereignty are all part of the continuum of national self-determination. A subjected nation relies on the principle of self-determination to obtain independence and sovereignty. Already independent states rely on the same principle to prevent invasion, pressure and intervention by external forces, to protect the completeness of their independence, and to decide their future.
Taiwan is a sovereign and independent state. It's future should be decided by the 23 million Taiwanese. This is an inalienable right and we should maintain and protect our people's right to self-determination.
In mid-January 2003 a series of commemorative events were held in Taipei on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the death of Chiang Ching-kuo. Mr. Chiang inherited the reins of power following the death of his father, Chiang Kai-shek, in 1975 and ruled until his own death in 1988.
While Mr. Chiang is credited for making the first moves towards political reform and democratization on the island, he is mainly remembered as the executor of the reign of terror of his father from the 1940s through the 1970s, for whom he served as head of the dreaded secret police for many years.
The opposition Kuomintang and PFP parties attempted to use the occasion of the commemoration to stir up feelings of nostalgia for "the good old days." The KMT even staged two commemorative concerts, titled "CCK, Taiwan misses you" and "Those good old days when people were full of hope." This prompted the following excellent editorial in the Taipei Times:
This editorial first appeared in the Taipei Times of 10 January 2003. Reprinted with permission.
Fifteen years after his death, late-president Chiang Ching-kuo is all-of-a-sudden a very popular person. A series of events arranged by the KMT including talks and papers presented by KMT Chairman Lien Chan and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and a commemorative concert entitled "CCK, Taiwan Misses You" suggest that the KMT is going all-out to deify Chiang.
There are at least two political ends served by the KMT's move. First, by exalting Chiang and asking the PFP and the New Party to join the chorus, the KMT strengthens the internal cohesion of the pan-blue camp and at the same time solidifies its leadership role within that camp. This, of course, puts the PFP in a rather awkward spot. It is a well-known fact that PFP Chairman James Soong can't complete a sentence without referring to "Mr. Ching-kuo," so he has no good excuse for staying out of the "commemorative events."
Second, by declaring that Chiang is its spiritual leader and icon in this way, the KMT is deliberately severing its ties with the 12-year reign of Lee Teng-hui. According to the KMT, Chiang deserves all the credit for Taiwan's economic miracle and democratic achievements leaving "black gold" as the only noteworthy legacy of Lee's era. This, of course, is completely absurd.
It cannot be denied that Chiang made significant contributions to Taiwan, especially in terms of economic development. Moreover, during the last few years of his rule, Chiang did plant the seeds for the democratization and development of Taiwan after his death. Lee, who succeeded Chiang as president, was the person who gave these seeds the water and nutrients they needed to blossom.
But it is also very important to point out that Chiang's efforts began relatively late in life. He was so sick that he knew his days were numbered. He also knew perfectly well that he had no suitable heir-apparent.
Furthermore, it cannot be denied that Chiang's reign was an era of military dictatorship and White Terror. In fact, even when Chiang Kai-shek was still president, Chiang Ching-kuo was already the executor of the senior Chiang's reign of terror.
If there was one thing that distinguished the younger Chiang from his father, it was probably the pragmatism of Chiang Ching-kuo. Perhaps as a former communist and atheist, Chiang Ching-kuo was by nature more practical than his fascist father.
At the very least, Chiang Ching-kuo apparently came to realize the impossibility of retaking the Chinese mainland and therefore was willing to make an effort to develop Taiwan and make it his home.
While Chiang Ching-kuo was perhaps an improvement on his father, this in no way means he deserves the worship he has received from the KMT recently. By deifying such a controversial figure, the KMT gains something and loses something. In the short run, idolizing Chiang may help the KMT to obtain pan-blue cohesion and leadership. In the long run, the damage may outweigh the good.
After all, in the minds of many people, the name of Chiang Ching-kuo is synonymous with "alien regime" and "White Terror." Many of those people still remember a time when they had to worship the Chiangs father and son. Stirring up those kind of memories can only cause resentment.
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