No ROC ‘national property’
In his excellent essay, Tunkan Tansikian notes that “When the [Republic of China] ROC government took over control of Taiwan after Japan was defeated in World War II, it basically continued with Japan’s policies … The ROC government did not return the hunting grounds and land … but instead listed it as national property” (“Time to right historical wrongs,” Sept. 25, page 8).
This “national property” appellation is curious. We must remember that all military attacks against Taiwan in the 1941-1945 period were conducted by US military forces. No troops from the UK, France, the Soviet Union, New Zealand, Australia or the then ROC participated. The US was the conqueror of Taiwan, hence beginning in the autumn of 1945, the rights and responsibilities regarding the disposition of Taiwan’s territory would fall to the US in the role of (principal) occupying power. As we know, General Douglas MacArthur delegated this responsibility to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), whose military forces came to Taiwan to accept the Japanese surrender and deal with the ensuing military occupation issues.
Chiang’s military forces were transported to Taiwan on US ships and aircraft. In the Foreign Relations of the United States series, compiled by the US Department of State, many documents make it clear that the US government recognized the surrender of Japanese troops in Taiwan as the beginning of the military occupation of the island. Since international law specifies that “military occupation does not transfer sovereignty,” it is clear that there was no “Taiwan Retrocession Day.”
Additional 1971 Department of State documents confirm that neither of the post-war peace treaties awarded the territorial sovereignty of Taiwan to the ROC. Moreover, sovereignty over occupied territory cannot be changed by invoking the doctrine of “prescription.”
Even after the UN adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on Sept. 13, 2007, the ROC regime has continued to claim that large areas of traditional Aboriginal grounds are “national property,” because of the Japanese surrender ceremonies which marked “Taiwan Retrocession Day.”
However, just as Iraq could not legally annex Kuwait in August 1990, the ROC could not legally annex Taiwan in Oct. 1945. Hence, there was no “Taiwan Retrocession Day.” Accordingly, no property in Taiwan whatsoever can be listed as “national property” of the ROC regime, which today remains as merely an occupying power and government in exile.
It is only by clarifying this important legal point that Aboriginal groups in Taiwan can move forward with a true human rights agenda.
Would the Taipei Times assist in conveying the above historical and legal analysis to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his Cabinet? Unless they can provide authoritative documentation from the principal victor in the war against Japan, (ie, the US) I would ask that all references to “Taiwan Retrocession Day” on all government Web sites, in all textbooks and in official displays in museums and so forth, be removed at the earliest possible date.
New Taipei City
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