Tue, Oct 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Back to the roots of independence

Premier William Lai (賴清德) on Wednesday last week put forward a pragmatic vision for Taiwanese independence, stating that Taiwan is a sovereign nation officially titled the Republic of China (ROC).

The Presidential Office has followed that up by reiterating its position that the ROC is a sovereign and independent nation.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office issued a frigid response.

“The mainland and Taiwan both belong to ‘one China,’ the two sides of the Taiwan Strait do not have a nation-to-nation relationship and there is no such thing as ‘one Taiwan, one China,’” it said. “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s sovereign territory, has never been a country and will never become a country.”

Beijing still uses the ideology of the Chinese Civil War to constrain Taiwan by placing the issue of Taiwanese sovereignty within a “one China” framework and talks of military unification, peaceful unification and numerous slogans based on its “Anti-Secession” Law.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chimed in with its own “one China, each side with its own interpretation” formula.

The government has declared its position. We now have to wait and see what will happen as a result of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

When one talks of independence, who or what are supporters attempting to become independent from? This question must be clarified to escape the trap set by China and the KMT. Even more importantly, only once this question is cleared up do we know whether Taiwan needs to pursue independence.

There are big differences between ensuring that Taiwan is not annexed by China, achieving full transitional justice through democratic means and dismantling the final vestiges of the ROC party-state system, and receiving universal recognition of Taiwan as a normal country by the international community.

Beijing and the KMT argue that Taiwan was returned to China at the end of World War II. It follows that the normalization of Taiwan as a regular nation state can only happen if it becomes independent from China.

The first problem with this view is that it does not stand up to either historical fact or international treaty law. The second problem is that Taiwan must first cast off the colonial structure imposed upon it by the KMT and turn the clock back to the end of World War II. The third problem is that Taiwan must achieve political recognition as a fully fledged nation state based on the consent of its population.

Prior to Japan’s surrender in 1945, Taiwan was a Japanese colony. At the end of World War II, the commander-in-chief of the Allied powers delegated the administration of Taiwan — then referred to as Formosa — to Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) forces and divided Indochina at the 16th parallel, giving responsibility for accepting the Japanese surrender to Chiang north of this line.

Soviet troops were given responsibility for accepting the Japanese surrender in northeastern China.

This shows that acceptance of surrender had nothing to do with sovereignty, otherwise China’s northeast would have become part of the USSR and Northern Vietnam would have become part of China.

Taiwan’s situation remained in limbo until the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect.

However, the treaty simply stated that Japan relinquished control of Taiwan, but did not stipulate which country Taiwan belonged to. Following this treaty, Japan had no rights in relation to Taiwan.

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