Thu, Dec 30, 2004 - Page 8 News List

History mocks territorial claims

By Chen Hurng-yu陳鴻瑜

Historically, China has used various events and occasions on the international stage to push the idea that Taiwan is part of its territory, and made good use of the nationalism inherent in its vast population to scare Taiwan.

When making the official announcement of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, countries are persuaded to state clearly their belief that "Taiwan is a part of China."

Recently, we have heard tell that the Chinese are in the process of passing an "anti-secession law," with the intention of creating a legal basis for hostilities against Taiwan.

China's desire to possess Taiwan is well known.

Taiwan is a former colony, so at what point was it a part of China? Taiwan has not legally been considered as belonging to the territory of China since the end of World War II, so how could it attempt to break away from China?

Before we can fully understand this issue, there are a number of questions that need to be clarified.

This takes us back to 1895, when the Qing government of China ceded the territory of Taiwan and the Penghu islands, along with its people, to Japan. Japan first allowed the peoples of these islands a two-year grace period in which they could decide whether to become Japanese subjects, or keep their nationality as Qing subjects.

This shows an awareness of international law on the part of the Japanese, as well as a considerable amount of humanism.

The Japanese did not force the people of either Taiwan or Penghu to take on Japanese nationality. This was certainly not an easy decision to make, and the situation was far from ideal, but at the very least they were afforded the opportunity to express what they wanted. As for Japan, it showed that it had respect for the wishes of the people.

After the war the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of the Republic of China (ROC), authorized by the Cairo Declaration and General Order No. 1 of the Allied Forces, dispatched men to Taiwan and Penghu to accept the Japanese surrender. However, "accepting surrender" is not the same thing as "maintaining a permanent occupation." According to the directive of the Allied Forces, the Nationalist army was charged with undertaking the repatriation of Japanese forces and civilians.

The departure of the Japanese from Taiwan and Penghu does not, however, mean that Japan had given up its claim to these territories. Japan had been given control of these islands as part of an international treaty, and so for them to give up this claim they would have to do so by way of another treaty, or other such official documentation.

There has yet to be any such diplomatic document officially transferring the territories of Taiwan and Penghu to the government of the ROC. Still, the ROC did take control of Taiwan and Penghu, as of Oct. 25, 1945, and required the residents of these territories to take on Chinese nationality.

This went unchallenged, and the US position from the beginning was that the people of Taiwan would become Chinese nationals again following the signing of a treaty between the Allies and the Japanese, officially returning Taiwan to China. It was only on Feb. 25, 1947, that the US agreed to recognize Taiwanese living in Japan as "overseas Chinese."

In addition, the British government was insisting that China could not simply transfer the sovereignty of Taiwan to China from Japan on its own without first signing an official agreement with Japan, in addition to conducting other official procedures. In 1949, (as we are told by J.P. Jain in the article "The Legal Status of Formosa" in The American Journal of International Law) the British junior foreign minister Christopher Mayhew, speaking to the House of Commons, said that a change in the legal status of Taiwan could only be decided by signing an agreement with Japan. A professor of international law at London University, George Schwarzenberger, doubts that the return of the rights to govern Taiwan and Penghu could have been done on the basis of the Cairo Declaration alone, and British MP Denis Healy has also said that such behavior betrays a complete indifference to the rights of the Taiwanese people.

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