Sat, Mar 12, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Sadly, Taiwan is still not a state

By Frank Chiang 江永芳

On Feb. 24, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) issued a joint statement, which states "According to the Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC), our country's status and position is defined as the de facto and de jure status quo existing between the two sides of the Strait."

In the statement, Chen also pledged that "during my term as president, I will not declare independence, ... [and] will not promote a referendum to change the status quo on the issue of independence or unification."

Last year, former US secretary of state Colin Powell gave an interview during which he made two remarks that have drawn protests from many quarters -- "Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation," and "We want to see both sides not take unilateral action that would prejudice an eventual outcome, a reunification that all parties are seeking."

Angered Taiwanese Americans rebutted Powell's remarks in open letters. They claimed that Taiwan is a sovereign state and that the people of Taiwan oppose unification with China.

Last month, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) alluded to the status of Taiwan as, "one China under the ROC Constitution."

These remarks and the claim came down to two questions: Is Taiwan a sovereign state? And do the Taiwanese Americans and Hsieh view the status of Taiwan differently?

Both questions were answered by Chen in the joint statement. The statement made no claim that either the ROC or Taiwan is an independent state. On the contrary, Chen emphatically stated that he "will not declare independence."

According to international law, Taiwan is not a state. Although many people have claimed that Taiwan is a "de facto state," such a status does not exist in the theories of states or international law.

A political entity is either a state or it is not. There is nothing in between.

The situation of Taiwan is similar to that of Palestine. Palestine has people, territory and a governing authority formed under a written Constitution, which provides for a president elected by the people and a prime minister elected by a parliament.

The Palestinian Authority said several times in the past that it would declare the establishment of a state at a future date.

It has not done so because Israel has threatened to annex the Palestinian land under its occupation if Palestine declares statehood without a peace accord with Israel.

Since Palestine has not declared statehood, no one, including the Palestinian Authority, calls Palestine a state or a "de facto state."

Taiwan cannot be a state because it has not declared establishment of a new state. "State" and "sovereignty" are inseparable concepts. Each state is a sovereign, and only states have sovereignty.

Some people hold that "Taiwan's sovereignty resides with the 23 million people." This could only be true if Taiwan had sovereignty. The position has no support in international law because Taiwan is not yet a state.

Powell's claims that "Taiwan is not independent" and "It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation" are unfortunately true.

The ROC was a government, not a state. It was established to succeed the Qing Dynasty as the government of the state of China.

When a national revolution succeeded in overthrowing the Qing government, the revolutionaries established a new government called the "Republic of China" in 1912 to succeed the Qing.

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