In the days of court diplomacy, it was said that the job of the diplomat was to tell fibs to foreigners in the interest of his country.
Under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has turned this principle on its head, lying to its own people in the interest of a hostile nation.
Members of Ma’s party — the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — and of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), are the only people in the world who think it appropriate to disregard the Treaty of San Francisco, to ignore the emergence of democracy in Taiwan and to cling to a press communique released following the 1943 Cairo Conference in Egypt saying that Taiwan and the Penghu Islands were to be restored to the Republic of China.
When National Taiwan University law professor Chiang Huang-chih (姜皇池) wrote recently that the Cairo Declaration was just a statement of intention and not a binding international agreement, the ministry acted as if it had been personally affronted, and scrabbled wildly around for a riposte.
It assured us that the Cairo Declaration was a legally binding “treaty and agreement.”
The ministry’s so-called clarification of the issue is simply not based on the facts. In asserting this, the ministry is brazenly complying with Beijing, which wants to annex Taiwan, and lying to Taiwanese.
The Cairo communique was neither a treaty nor an agreement. If it were a treaty, it would have had to have been approved by the US Senate, and if it were an executive agreement it would have had to have been publicly announced. However, this distinction seems to have been lost on the ministry, too, which apparently believes the communique was both.
When former US president Harry Truman and his secretary of state Dean Acheson subsequently spoke of China’s “occupation” and control of Taiwan, they did not mention sovereignty.
And yet the ministry had the temerity to say that the Allied Forces recognized that “China had sovereignty over Taiwan.”
Some legal consultants in the US Department of State do say that, according to the Cairo communique and other subsequent declarations, Taiwan has already been “restored to the Republic of China.”
However, the legal argument for this is weak, and it is certainly not the US Department of State’s official position.
The US Department of State’s position is as follows: According to the protocol and the text of the San Francisco Treaty, the legal status of Taiwan and the Penghu Islands is yet to be decided.
When the US Senate approved the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, it specifically noted that the treaty did not touch upon the legal status of Taiwan or the undecided question of sovereignty.
Former US president Franklin Roosevelt offered Manchuria, Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) to make sure he continued to resist the Japanese.
This covert deal violated the right to self-determination of the peoples colonized by the Japanese. Thankfully, these promises were never made legal, so that Taiwanese still had some choice in the matter.
The fact that the government is clueless when it comes to protecting the rights of Taiwanese is in China’s favor. However, lying to your own people is just setting yourself up against them.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper