Taiwan Communiqué No. 99, December 2001

Independence must be asserted

By Prof. Chen Lung-chu et al. This article is an open letter from Chen Lung-chu, president and CEO of the Taiwan New Century Foundation, Huang Chao-tang, a presidential advisor and chairman of World United Formosans for Independence, Yao Chia-wen, former chairman of the DPP and currently a senior adviser to the president, Chen Li-tung; Hung Mao-hsiung, an international relations graduate research fellow at National Chengchi University, Yang Chi-chuan, Hsu Shih-kai, an author, and Liao Fu-te, an assistant research fellow of the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica.

The Taiwan New Century Foundation, the Taiwan National Security Institute, the Taiwan Care Foundation and the International Cultural Foundation held a joint seminar on 23 September 2001 to mark the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. After vigorous and comprehensive discussion, the scholars and experts arrived at a number of conclusions.

We are of the unequivocal opinion that Taiwan is an independent sovereign state, and hereby publicly demand that the people and the government of Taiwan adopt the necessary measures to guarantee Taiwan's international status.

A. The claim

1. Taiwan is a sovereign state and a member of the international community. It does not belong to any country. Much less is it a part of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

2. The name, "Republic of China" (ROC), currently used by Taiwan's government, has caused many problems and much inconvenience in the international arena, and even impaired Taiwan's status and interests. It should therefore be changed.

B. The demand

1. The government and people of Taiwan should value the historical fact that Taiwan secured its sovereignty from the San Francisco Treaty.

2. We demand that the government incorporate the historical facts regarding the San Francisco Treaty in the teaching materials of the national curriculum. It should in particular strengthen the education of Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff members and other personnel involved in foreign affairs on the facts and significance of the treaty.

3. The president and government officials at all levels should take advantage of domestic and international occasions to assert that Taiwan is a sovereign state.

C. Explanation

1. According to the San Francisco Treaty, Taiwan's sovereignty has belonged to neither Japan nor China since the accord took effect in April 1952. It belongs to the people of Taiwan.

The San Francisco Treaty, signed in September 1951, is the most important legal document determining where Taiwan's sovereignty belongs. Its force and importance completely override those of the Cairo and Potsdam declarations.

Both of the latter merely served as political declarations expressing the Allies' future policy goals and intentions, and are not legally binding. That they are not legally binding is not only the common view of a vast majority of experts in international law, but also the official position of the US and UK governments.

In accordance with the practice and theory of international law, post-war territorial alterations are to be decided by formal treaties. The changes regarding Taiwan's sovereignty after World War II should therefore rest on the legal basis of the authoritative San Francisco Treaty, signed in September 1951 and coming into effect in April 1952. According to the accord, Japan did not formally renounce its claim to Taiwan and the Pescadores until April 1952. Before that, no other country, not even China, could have legally acquired sovereignty over these areas.

Since Japan, in signing the San Francisco Treaty, renounced sovereignty over the two areas, it naturally had no right to handle the areas afterward. Even though Japan signed the Treaty of Peace with the Taiwan government in 1952, a joint communiqué with the PRC in 1972, and the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with the PRC in 1978, these international agreements could never cause any legal changes to the sovereignty and status of Taiwan and the Pescadores because they were signed after the San Francisco Treaty.

From the point of view of both the law and the facts, anyone who cites the Cairo and Potsdam declarations to explain Taiwan's sovereignty is actually echoing the PRC's hegemonic claim to Taiwan. In its white paper on the Taiwan question issued in February last year, the PRC only cited the two declarations as the basis for its claim to Taiwan. If Taiwan's foreign affairs departments cling to this erroneous stance by embracing the two declarations and rejecting the San Francisco Treaty, the outcome will be tantamount to legal suicide.

Given the current situation, Taiwan's government should, on the basis of the San Francisco Treaty, resist the PRC's hegemonic claim to Taiwan and establish the fundamental position that Taiwan is not a part of the PRC. In reality, it is only when Taiwan views the San Francisco Treaty as the legal basis of its sovereignty that it can effectively counteract the "one China" principle advocated by the PRC.

2. With democratization and Taiwanization over the past 10-plus years, Taiwan's status has become clearer. It has long been a sovereign state.

Although ROC troops were ordered to take over Taiwan in October 1945, this was merely a military occupation executed on behalf of the Allies at the orders of the commander of the Allied forces. Taiwan's sovereignty was not necessarily transferred to the ROC as a result of the military takeover. Nor did the ROC government necessarily acquire sovereignty over Taiwan by continuing to occupy Taiwan with the acquiescence of the Allies after the San Francisco Treaty took effect in 1952.

In light of the principles of contemporary international law, the people of Taiwan, who were freed from Japanese colonial rule after World War II, certainly enjoy the right to self-determination over their political status. This includes the right to actively choose any changes to Taiwan's sovereignty.

Prior to the 1980s, the people of Taiwan were oppressed by high-handed authoritarian rule and were denied any opportunity to exert the right to self-determination — but they did not lose this right.

Since the late 1980s, Taiwan has undergone a whole string of reforms — liberalization, democratization and Taiwanization. Notable reforms include: the establishment of the DPP in September 1986; the lifting of martial law in July 1987; the termination of the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion in April 1991; a full-scale National Assembly election at the end of 1991; a full-scale legislative election at the end of 1992; popular elections for the Taiwan provincial governor and city mayors; the first direct presidential election in March 1996; and the transfer of political power in May last year. Constitutional reforms were also carried out during that period, completely "Taiwanizing" the power base of the central government.

Furthermore, the government abandoned its claim to represent China, and instead, strove for and upheld its claim to represent Taiwan, thus gradually creating Taiwan's unique international status, which is different from that of China. This process has transformed Taiwan's government from an exiled, alien regime into a local democratic one. Furthermore, it is a legal government capable of representing Taiwan and its people in the international arena. Moreover, it substantively demonstrates that the people of Taiwan are collectively exercising their right to self-determination according to international law.

Freedom award for President Chen

First Lady Wu Shu-chen goes to Strasbourg

{short description of image}
Wheelchair-bound Wu Shu-chen off to Strasbourg

On 14 November 2001, Taiwan's First Lady Wu Shu-chen visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg to accept the 2001 Prize for Freedom from Liberal International. The price was awarded to the Taiwanese president in recognition for his role in bringing human rights and democracy to Taiwan.

Past recipients of the prize include former president of the Philippines Corazon Aquino (1987), Czech President Vaclav Havel (1990), and Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (1995).

Wheelchair-bound Wu was presented the price in the Winston Churchill room by Lord Russell-Johnston, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and vice president of Liberal International, a London-based association of liberal parties from more than 60 countries.

At the ceremony, a video message was played in which President Chen stated that the prize was not awarded to him alone, but also to the people of Taiwan, "who love freedom, uphold peace and respect human rights." He added: "Despite the PRC's threats of military action, the 23 million great people of Taiwan acted to heal the wounds of the past with love, to conquer fear with determined confidence. By casting their sacred ballots, they brought about the historic first alternation of political power in Taiwan's history. This proud democratic achievement is the best testament to Taiwan's democratic values."

Chen also emphasized the efforts he has made in the area of human rights protection, such as the establishment of a Human Rights Advisory Group, and in cross-strait reconciliation since his inauguration in May 2000. He said: "Under the preconditions of maintaining democracy, equality and peace, I will continue to safeguard the peace of the Taiwan Strait and to pursue a new framework for permanent peace and political integration.

Chen expressed his regret at the fact that he was not able to travel to Strasbourg to receive the prize in person. Mr. Hans Van Baalen, a member of the Dutch Parliament who serves a vice-chairman of Liberal International, stated that his organization had put significant effort in organizing the event, and was deeply disappointed at the fact that the countries of the European Union at present still don't understand the political changes that have taken place in Taiwan, and don't adjust their policies accordingly.

After the ceremony, the Taiwanese First Lady left for Prague in the Czech Republic, where she was to be received by President Vaclav Havel, one of the few leaders in Europe who has not let himself be intimidated by China's bullying.

France, land of the free not so free

This editorial appeared in the Taipei Times on 23 October 2001. Reprinted with permission.

Liberté ?
France "welcoming" First Lady Wu Shu-chen to receive the Liberal International Price for Freedom. Liberté ?

Freedom is viewed as a basic human right in today's modern society. But it is by no means a right that falls from the sky: humanity has to struggle constantly for it. From that perspective, Liberal International's decision to award the 2001 Prize for Freedom to Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian was a decision of great merit.

On its Web site, Liberal International says it has given the award to Chen "in recognition of the Taiwanese struggle for Freedom and Democracy and their free choice concerning Taiwan's institutional future." Formerly a lawyer representing Kaohsiung Incident activists, Chen was in the vanguard of Taiwan's democracy movement for over two decades. After winning last year's presidential election, he also presided over Taiwan's first peaceful transition of political power, which finally brought real freedom and democracy to the country.

Past recipients of the Prize for Freedom include Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and Czech president Vaclav Havel. Chen's receipt of the prestigious award at a ceremony in Europe would have been a proud moment for all Taiwanese.

Unfortunately, China continues to spare no effort trying to block Chen's appearance at any venue — as evident during last week's APEC meetings and now again with the French visa issue.

Initially, Liberal International planned to present the award to Chen in Copenhagen, but the Danish government caved in under pressure from Beijing and refused to issue a visa to the legitimate, democratically elected president of Taiwan.

Liberal International then considered holding the award ceremony at a European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg in eastern France. But the French government was similarly reluctant to issue a visa to Chen, for fear of rubbing Beijing the wrong way.

After much bickering, the French government agreed to let first lady Wu Shu-chen receive the award on Chen's behalf — if she agrees to a long list of conditions: She should not pass through Paris; she must leave from the Charles de Gaulle airport immediately after the ceremony; she must not speak to reporters before the event and must keep a low profile throughout — or risk having her visa canceled.

As the French newspaper Le Monde said on Saturday, it is difficult to understand the French government's refusal, given that it has been willing to set aside political issues and allow Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to travel in the country. Taiwan is a country with a clearly defined territory and a democratically elected government. On what basis can Paris refuse Chen a visa?

The pusillanimity of the French government should be a cause of shame for a country known as the birthplace of the ideas of freedom and human rights. Faced with immense military and economic pressure from China, the people of Taiwan have time and again demonstrated their bravery by choosing freedom and self-determination instead of capitulation. Taiwan's government also continues to work hard to safeguard that freedom. This is exactly the reason why Chen won the Liberal International award.

The people of France should step out and protest their government's timorous policy as well as Beijing's thuggish behavior. The French failure to approve the president's visa brings shame on a nation which purports to be dedicated to freedom, fraternity and equality. Let the president of Taiwan, the leader of a people struggling for freedom, go where it all began and share that freedom.

Back to: Table of Contents

Copyright © 2001 Taiwan Communiqué