Thu, Aug 09, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The evolution of Taiwan's statehood

By Chen Lung-chu 陳隆志

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) sent an official letter of application for UN membership using the name "Taiwan" to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 19. However, Ban ignored realities and UN procedure and had the UN legal department return the letter.

The Chinese government fiercely opposes Taiwan's UN application on the grounds that Taiwan is not a country but only a part of China. Whether or not Taiwan is a state or a country will become a central topic for international political forces.

Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation, not a part of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It's status is therefore not an internal issue of China.

According to international law, there are four conditions for statehood: A state must have a population, effective control over a territory, a government and the capacity to interact with other countries. A national title is not a requirement for statehood.

By this standard, Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country regardless of how many or how few other countries recognize it. Taiwan is a country completely independent from the PRC. It has never been ruled by the PRC for even a single day. Neither Taiwan nor China fall under the jurisdiction of the other, and this is the current political status quo.

When examining the issue of territorial jurisdiction using the principles of contemporary international law, one must grasp the following three principles:

First, the intertemporal principle. When studying whether or not the 1895 Shimonoseki Treaty in which China ceded Taiwan to Japan is valid, one must use 1895 international law as the standard. However, if the dispute over the territory had continued from 1895 to the present day, then one would have to use contemporary international law to resolve it, not international law from more than 100 years ago.

Two, the peaceful resolution of international territorial disputes. The principal of using peaceful methods to resolve disputes is the single most important prescription in the UN Charter.

Three, the principle of self-determination of the people. Determining the ownership of a territory is not a business transaction involving land or property. It involves the basic human rights, survival and well-being of all residents in an entire territory. All questions of the status of a territory and its residents should be decided based on the will of the residents of that territory.

From the viewpoint of international law, Taiwan has not been a part of China since 1895. Taiwan has evolved into a country by way of a continuous, ongoing process. There are four important steps in this evolution:

First, from 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was a Japanese colony. In 1895, the Qing dynasty and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, in which China ceded sovereignty over Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity. According to international law at that time, this was a legal transfer of territory and Taiwan become part of Japanese territory.

Second, from 1945 to 1952, Taiwan was a Japanese territory occupied by the allied forces following the end of World War II. The allied military occupation was ordered and authorized by US General Douglas MacArthur, commander in chief of the Allied forces in the Far East, and delegated to the army of the Republic of China (ROC) led by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). This constituted a military occupation of Taiwan, and did not mean that the ROC had been given sovereignty over or ownership of Taiwan.

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