Taiwan Communiqué No. 76, June 1997

The Taiwan Factor

A bad day at the New York Times

Taiwanese and Taiwanese-Americans generally appreciate the objective reporting and the sound editorial opinions of the New York Times. They were therefore surprised, deeply hurt and shocked when the Times on 14 April 1997 published a totally biased and misinformed editorial, titled "The Taiwan Factor."

In the editorial, the Times' editors attempted to link the then-evolving fund-raising scandal to "Taiwanese-Americans", termed Taiwan as being "within the historic boundaries of China, and referred to "diplomatic adventurism" by Taiwan.

Taiwan Communiqué comment: if holding democratic elections and striving for international recognition are considered "diplomatic adventurism", then certainly all Western nations ,including the United States are guilty of this offense. Does the New York Times have suggestions for righting the wrongs of Taiwan's history by being less shall we say "diplomatic adventuristic"?

The editorial prompted a flood of protest-letters of Taiwanese-Americans and Taiwanese-American organizations. However, until now the New York Times has failed to publish any of these letters.

We urge the New York Times editors to apologize for this incredibly bad piece of editorialism, and publish at least one or two of the letters written by Taiwanese-American organizations. Below, we print excerpts from a letter, which we wrote:

To the Editor of the New York Times

Chevy Chase, April 15th, 1997

Dear Sirs,

Your editorial titled "the Taiwan Factor" shows a distinct lack of understanding of the important nuances regarding Taiwan and US policy towards Taiwan. It totally fails to distinguish between the Chinese mainlanders, like John Huang, and the Taiwanese and the Taiwanese-Americans who are working hard for a free, democratic and independent Taiwan.

The attempts by Mr. Huang, and the likes of Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie, to buy influence in the United States are indeed an outrage and very troubling. However, they consider themselves Chinese-American and have nothing to do with the Taiwanese-American community.

As far as President Lee Teng-hui's visit is concerned: if a mere visit of Mr. Lee to his alma mater can already lead to "...a crisis in relations between the US and China" then we wonder if the United States will really have the courage to stand up for the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations. These principles give the people of Taiwan the right to self-determination and the right to determine their own future, without any outside interference by other countries such as China.

The people of Taiwan simply ask China to respect the right of the Taiwanese to choose "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as a free and independent country, which lives in peaceful coexistence next to its big neighbor.

The people of the United States chose to provoke a crisis 200 years ago by declaring themselves independent from the mightiest power on earth at that time, the British Empire. If you refer to our attempts to establish an independent nation as "diplomatic adventurism", then certainly you should be consistent, and condemn U.S. independence. Why would it be right for the US to be independent from Britain, and not right for Taiwan to be an independent nation ?

Your editorial also mistakenly states that the present US policy "...commits Washington to recognize only one government, Beijing's, within the historic boundaries of China, which includes Taiwan." The US in 1972 indeed started to switch its recognition from the government in Taipei to those in Beijing, as government of China.

However, the US did not recognize China's claim to Taiwan; the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué stated only that the US "acknowledged" (=took note of) China's position. Taiwan has never been part of the PRC and there is no reason that it should be.

Also, the historic boundaries of China do not include Taiwan: before the 1600s, only aborigines lived on the island, and when the Dutch landed in Anping (present-day Tainan) they found no trace of administration by any mainland authority. Only after the Dutch developed plantations there, did Chinese laborers from the coastal provinces start to migrate to the island. They intermingled with the aborigines, and a new identity was born, the Taiwanese.

Only in 1887, did the Chinese Emperor declare Taiwan a province of China, but this exercise was short-lived: at the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, the Chinese emperor ceded sovereignty over Taiwan to Japan, in perpetuity. Taiwan remained an integral part of the Japanese empire until 1945, and most older Taiwanese speak only Japanese and Hok-lo (Taiwanese), no Chinese Mandarin.

The sensitive issues surrounding relations with Taiwan and China should be dealt with in a fair, informed and just manner. Your editorial was misinformed on a number of key facts, and thus did not treat these issues in a fair and objective manner.

Washington Report

Repr. Andrews: recognize Taiwan as equal participant

Over the past few months, the pressure in the US Congress to accept Taiwan as an equal member in the international community has been growing. At the end of April 1997, US Congressman Robert E. Andrews (NJ) made the following statement:

The United States has had a long and prosperous relationship with Taiwan. As a member of the House International Relations Committee, I believe the US must do more to stand by the 21.5 million Taiwanese in their struggle for sovereignty against the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).

America has refused to recognize Taiwan diplomatically, even though the U.S. is Taiwan's largest trading partner and a close military ally. Instead, U.S. policy defers to a communist regime, which claims to represent all of China, including Taiwan. Our appeasement of the Chinese government reached new lows two years ago when the State Department denied the duly elected leader of Taiwan, President Lee Teng-hui, a visa to visit the United States in a private capacity. We cannot justify such actions. On 2 May 1995 I voted with my colleagues in Congress, strongly asking the State Department to reconsider its decision. Our efforts led to the reversal of that decision....

We should reaffirm our relationship with Taiwan and show our commitment to the island's people by supporting Taiwan's entry in the United Nations. I have led support for a bill (H.Con.Res. 63) that states (1) Taiwan should be a full participant in the UN and its related agencies; and (2) the Clinton Administration should immediately encourage the UN to accept Taiwan as a member. This bill lays the foundation for a sustained relationship between the United States and Taiwan. In addition, I believe Taiwan should be allowed to join the new World Trade Organization that was created by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Taiwan is a model emerging democracy, with 21.5 million peaceful people eager to join the international community. As the leading nation in the world promoting democracy, the United States has both a duty and obligation to support the growing democracy in Taiwan through the Taiwan Relations Act. I fully support upholding this Act and sponsored legislation last year (H.Con.Res. 140) that called upon the President to review the defense needs of Taiwan and take appropriate action where needed. This crucial legislation declared that any attempt by the PRC to threaten the peace and security of Taiwan would be a threat to the peace of the pacific and a threat to the interests of the United States. China should no longer be allowed to threaten the safety of the people of Taiwan.

I am not suggesting that the United States should completely sever its relations with mainland China. persuading the Chinese government to peacefully resolve the Taiwan issue is in the interest of all three countries. Right now, the best means to promote fairness is to pressure international bodies to recognize Taiwan as an equal participant.


A new Secretary-General for the Presbyterian Church

In April / May 1997, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan elected Reverend William Lo to be its new Secretary-General, starting June 1998. He has served as the minister of one of Taipei's downtown churches, and has played an active role in both the social and political movement in Taiwan. He is also an outspoken proponent of Taiwan independence

The Presbyterian Church has maintained a strong sense of social concern for the people in Taiwan and the future of Taiwan. In the 1970's the Church made three public proclamations, which provided strong impetus for the movement for human rights and democracy on the island.

Reverend William Lo

The Presbyterian Church also has strongly supported Taiwan independence. Already in 1977, it issued the "Declaration on Human Rights", which stated that "... the government should take effective measures whereby Taiwan may become a new and independent country."

In 1991 the Church issued the "Public Statement on Sovereignty of Taiwan", which emphasized that the authorities should discard the old "Republic of China" Constitution, and adopt a new constitution. It also stated that, while a mutually beneficial relationship should be built up between Taiwan and China, neither one has the right to claim sovereignty over the other.

Taiwan DC Internet homepage expands

Over the past months, the Taiwan DC Internet homepage "Taiwan, Ilha Formosa" at http://www.taiwandc.org has expanded and received a new front page. Please come by for a visit. We have also added the subtitle "The Homepage for Taiwan's History, Present and Future" to reflect our determination that:

  1. Taiwan needs to discover its own History and identity, as opposed to the China-oriented history which has been forced on the Taiwanese by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists. Our History pages present the history of the island from a Taiwanese perspective.
  2. Present developments which have an impact on Taiwan or its place or role in the international community need to be presented from the Taiwanese perspective. On our "News and Current Events" pages we give brief commentaries, as seen through Taiwanese eyes.
  3. The Future of Taiwan is our all-encompassing concern. Through our pages we want to emphasize our pride to be Taiwanese, and our determination to have our nation recognized as a free, democratic and independent country.

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