Thu, Aug 02, 2007 - Page 8 News List

May 23 is a day for Taiwan to celebrate

By Kuo Cheng-deng 郭正典

Whether Taiwan is a country or not has long been a point of argument. Recently, in the debate about whether it should apply for UN membership using the name "Taiwan" rather than the "Republic of China" (ROC), some have said it is unnecessary for Taiwan to declare independence since it is already a country, while others believe it needs to declare independence to apply for UN membership.

One commentator said that the question of whether Taiwan is a country will be self-evident if we answer the following questions: When did Taiwan declare independence, where is the independence declaration and how did it handle its relations with the ROC at that time?

The fact is that Taiwan declared its independence and issued an independence declaration 112 years ago, in the name of the "Republic of Formosa."

After its defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and 1895, the Qing dynasty ceded both Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Led by governor Tang Jingsong (唐景崧), the Taiwanese declared independence through the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Formosa on May 23, 1895. The English-language version of the declaration was sent to all the embassies in Taiwan on May 24. An independence ceremony was held on May 25, and Tang was made president on that day.

By Oct. 21, Japanese troops had taken control of all of Taiwan. Despite the fact that the Republic of Formosa existed for just 184 days, its existence is an undeniable fact and cannot be ignored.

The history of the Philippines offers some instructive parallels. In 1565, Spain colonized the Philippines, ruling the islands for 333 years. On Aug. 28, 1896, Emilio Aguinaldo started a revolutionary war and the Philippines declared independence on June 12, 1898. On Jan. 23, 1899, the country adopted a Constitution and proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines. Aguinaldo became the first president. The Spanish-American War was ended by the Treaty of Paris, which was signed on Dec. 10, 1898, and by which Spain ceded the Philippines to the US.

On April 1, 1901, Aguinaldo surrendered to the US, and the Republic of the Philippines fell apart. It had existed for two years, nine months and 20 days.

Japan occupied the Philippines during World War II from 1942 to 1945. On June 23, 1946, presidential elections were held, and on July 4 the US declared the Philippines independent.

Although the Philippines have been occupied by the Spanish, the Americans and the Japanese and only began its full independence on July 4, 1946, the Filipinos still mark June 12 as their independence day, commemorating the day in 1898 when Aguinaldo first established the Republic of the Philippines. Last month the nation celebrated the 109th anniversary of its independence.

The fate of Taiwan is similar to that of the Philippines. After it declared independence, Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese and then the Chinese, who renamed it the Republic of China. But when Japan "renounced all right, title and claim" to Taiwan in the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, it did so without stating to whom it was ceded. This meant that, in theory, it should be returned to the government that ruled Taiwan when the Japanese took over: the Republic of Formosa.

Following the Filipino example, one could say that Taiwan has been independent since 1895, so that today it has been independent for 112 years, making May 23 Taiwan's independence day.

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