Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Don't dismiss Hartzell

By Jerry Mills

In Amy Chen's comments about Richard Hartzell (Letters, July 8, page 8) she offers a few opinions without supporting them with facts and spends most of the letter casting aspersions on Hartzell's supposed lack of scholarship. She obviously doesn't know him, yet uses weak arguments and groundless attacks on his reputation as a substitute for solid facts.

Hartzell has lived in Taiwan for 30 years -- that's longer than most Taiwanese have lived here. He speaks fluent Mandarin and reads it very well. His areas of expertise include the differences between Chinese and Western cultural norms, the US-Taiwan-China relationship, the customary laws of warfare, international treaty law, Chinese and international law, territorial cession law, US insular law, US Constitutional law and US Supreme Court cases.

His type of intellectualism is often hard for people to grasp. He seems to assume that his readers understand more about a situation than he should expect. When he describes a hypothetical situation as an analogy for Taiwan's actual situation, I wonder how many of his readers become lost. Apparently, at least one of them did.

Having carefully studied Hartzell's in-depth article, "Understanding the San Francisco Peace Treaty's Disposition of Formosa and the Pescadores" (Harvard Asia Quarterly, Fall 2004, page 23-24), I believe that his interpretation of Taiwan's legal situation should not be rejected merely because it is revisionist.

I believe he is right in saying that legal experts have often been guilty of looking solely to civil law for a reading on Taiwan's legal status. He probably has gone too far in the other direction by seeming to disregard civil law -- not just legislated law, but precedent law and common law. Hartzell deserves a hearing; his research is too valuable to ignore.

It's really a joke when someone on another continent tells Hartzell to go looking for a "real expert" on Taiwan's legal situation. When the experts are completely stumped, they go looking for people such as him.

Jerry Mills


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