The right to a nationality
The people of Taiwan have the right to choose their nationality. This is the case even if Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would, through his economic policy, make Taiwan a province of China.
In the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed in 1895 at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, China and Japan gave each inhabitant of Taiwan the right to choose his or her nationality after China ceded the island to Japan.
Another precedent is the 1898 Treaty of Paris that concluded the Spanish-American War, under which the US and Spain gave every resident of the Philippines the right to choose his or her nationality.
The Taiwan Relations Act, which defines the relationship between Taiwan and the US, covers the whole population.
The Shanghai Communique’s “one China” policy, regardless of the different interpretations in China and the US, referred only to the “Chinese” people on both sides of the Strait. On Taiwan’s side, the Mainlanders are a minority. What about the majority?
This right to have a nationality is guaranteed by Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
If Ma were to bring Taiwan under Chinese administration against the will of the majority, every citizen could oppose him based on this universal right.
The only way to solve the Taiwan problem without violating the UDHR is to give those people in Taiwan who wish to become Chinese citizens the right to leave Taiwan and become Chinese. Many of them have already moved their financial resources and their family members to China. Besides, most of the people in this group came to Taiwan for temporary refuge after 1949 and were Chinese in the first place.
Those who do not wish to become Chinese citizens — even if the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party governments sign any secret pacts — should remain citizens of Taiwan.
For Taiwanese, the right to their nationality as guaranteed by the UDHR has been ignored for too long and needs urgent international attention.
Improving higher education
It is great news that National Taiwan University (NTU) was ranked 95th in the world in the 2009 World University Rankings released by the Times of London.
With NTU on the list of the world’s top 100 universities, the Ministry of Education has formulated its next goal to help other institutions of higher learning reach the top 100 in various academic fields (“Ministry to help universities make top 100,” Oct. 13, page 2).
Responding to NTU’s accomplishment, the ministry will continue to provide its annual NT$10 billion funding, which was initiated in 2005. It is encouraging that Minister of Education Wu Ching-chi (吳清基) has committed to the second stage of the university-boosting project, which will begin in the 2011 academic year.
From the perspective of “human capacity building” or “human resources development,” promoted globally by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, APEC, UNESCO, the World Bank and other international organizations, it is enlightening to see our government injecting significant funding into higher education.
However, there are concerns about the quality of our higher education. Evidence such as Taiwan’s declining competitiveness in higher education and its slumping performance in English as manifested in scores on TOEFL, TOEIC and IELTS deserve serious consideration.
While sufficient funding is essential, promoting quality teaching, research and student advising should be the priority for advancing our higher education.
Our government should pursue innovative and pragmatic educational policies to empower university students to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
In the meantime, higher education policies and strategies for recruiting international students and celebrated academics must be considered.
Yonghe, Taipei County
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