By Albert Hwang. During the summer of 1996, Albert was an intern at the Formosan Association for Public Affairs in Washington, DC.
A few months after my father arrived in America, my mother and brother joined him. I was born one year later in New York City. It was twenty-one years ago and my father had no desire to make the U.S. his new home. He had every intention to return to his beloved Taiwan, where he could share the "Beautiful Island" with his children. However, the opportunities the US offered his children were just too tempting. So to escape the draconian Kuomintang my father decided to stay in America. Together we set out to pursue the American Dream.
My parents understood that my Taiwanese heritage would be as important to me as it was to them. Since I always labeled myself as a Taiwanese- American, I never understood the confusion surrounding Taiwan's international status. From a very young age it had always been clear: there is one Taiwan and one China two separate sovereign states. But as I grew older and continued my education, I discovered that not everyone saw it as clearly as I did.
With Taiwan's democratic development and its growth into an economic powerhouse, the world became increasingly attentive towards the situation in Taiwan. Yet, the majority of governments around the world, including the US, continued to deny the Taiwanese people their rightful place and refused to recognize the reality that China and Taiwan are separate countries. This injustice led me to become a student of Taiwan and the plight of the Taiwanese people.
Presently, I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, double majoring in International Studies with a focus on East Asian Politics and Philosophy. And through my studies I continued to arrive at the conclusion that Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China.
The international community's refusal to accept Taiwan as an equal sovereign
partner has led me to work towards seeking an internationally recognized
Taiwan. This past summer, I worked at the Formosan Association for Public
Affairs (FAPA). While we have done invaluable work and made significant strides
in altering US policy toward Taiwan, I know that ultimately the mandate must
come from the Taiwanese people themselves.
Over the past weeks, we have been busy gathering congressional support for Taiwan's UN membership, WTO membership, and ensuring Taiwan's continued safety and security. When visiting various Congressional offices, the aides always ask me, "If the people of Taiwan want to be part of the international community, why do they continue to allow their government to keep Taiwan's international status ambiguous?"
Indeed, the future of Taiwan lies in the hands of the Taiwanese people. In the past, the Kuomintang's political rhetoric and betrayal isolated the 21 million people on Taiwan and doomed them to be the hostages of a Chinese civil war. But now, in 1996, the Taiwanese people have full authority in determining the future of their country. The Presidential elections in March 1996 provided Taiwan's people with the perfect opportunity to change Taiwan's international status. President Lee Teng-hui promised during his presidential campaign to continue to push for Taiwan's international recognition. But it seems that he has backed away from his bold statements since then.
My working experience at FAPA enhanced my belief that the "Republic of China myth" (of which the US outdated "One China policy" and Taiwan's absence from the UN and the WTO are the result) needs to be abolished. No matter who looks at the situation, the honest truth is that the KMT has not had control over China for the past fifty years. Despite this reality, the ROC constitution continues to state that the ROC government is the legitimate government of all of China, and that Taiwan is part of China. Naturally, the only ones with the power to change the ROC Constitution are those people who are ruled by it the 21 million people of Taiwan.
My summer at FAPA has taught me that even in a country as large as the US, one person with a mission and a goal can have his voice heard. The same will be true for the Taiwanese people, if they rally together to change the ROC Constitution, the government will have to listen. But if they continue to allow the KMT to maintain the claim that Taiwan is part of China, Taiwan's international status will forever remain ambiguous.
While we, overseas, can create an international atmosphere that wants to side with Taiwan, it is the job of the Taiwanese to change Taiwan's domestic policy. The Taiwanese people cannot continue to portray themselves as helpless victims and cannot continue to blame other people and other governments for the problems they currently face. If Taiwan wants to take its rightful place in the international community, the Taiwanese people have the power and authority to change government policy. They must end the "Republic of China myth."
In a democratic system, a party only retains control if the people continue to vote for that party. Once the Taiwanese electorate has forced the KMT to end the ROC myth, then and only then can we all come together and redefine our future.
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Copyright © 1996 Taiwan Communiqué