While participating in a symposium on Oct. 20 that sought to discuss the establishment of Taiwanese subjective identity in light of current issues, which was organized by the Taiwan Association of University Professors Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元) said in an essay that: “Although some people do not want to be People’s Republic of China nationals, they still cannot face the reality that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are currently ‘one country on each side.’”
There are reasons for this kind of contradictory mindset. It is only through Taiwan-centric history, education and culture that the nation is likely to achieve “salvation” from the fundamentals. Under this situation, one can see the necessity of instigating Taiwan subjectivity-oriented educational reform.
After hearing this, I feel that most Taiwanese are confused between their “subjective sense of identity” and their “national status.” Before I sat the nation’s first female senior-high school entrance exam in Tainan in 1934, my Japanese teacher at Tainan Garden Elementary School, Mr Nakayama, told me: “You are Taiwanese, you have to study extra hard in order to pass the exam.”
As a 13-year-old girl, I did not understand what my teacher meant. Educational opportunities for Taiwanese and Japanese during the Japanese colonial era were unequal. Among the 100 students that were admitted that year, only three of them were Taiwanese. The 100 students were divided into two classes which each had a class president, vice president and deputy vice president.
Despite having attained the second-highest score in the exam, I was not appointed to be a class officer. Although I was very sad, I did not give up on myself and maintained a sense of balance. However, it always weighed heavily on my heart — why had I not been chosen? Later, I found out the answer. My national status was different to that of my Japanese classmates. Most of my classmates were Japanese with Japanese nationality, but I was Taiwanese with Japanese nationality. I was a Taiwanese under Japanese colonial rule. To be specific, I was a person without a country. Since that time — and for more than 70 years since — I have longed for a country of my own.
When World War II ended in 1945, I was a 25-year-old with Japanese nationality. My nationality was converted to the Republic of China without my consent. According to Japanese government documents dated April 19, 1952, native Taiwanese lost their Japanese status on April 28, 1952, in compliance with the San Francisco Peace Treaty. However, according to national government instructions dated Jan. 12, 1946, the date that native Taiwanese had their nationalities “restored” to the Republic of China was backdated to Oct. 25, 1945. From this discrepancy, one can see that the national government did not follow the principles of international law to change the national identity of the Taiwanese.
In summation, “national status” is different from a “subjective sense of identity” and clarifying Taiwan’s national identity is more important than establishing subjective Taiwanese identity. Although Taiwanese took on the nationality of the government-in-exile, without a normal national identity they are still unable to stand beside other nations, which bars Taiwan from participating in bodies such as the UN and the WHO and so Taiwanese are always subjected to unfair treatment.
The Republic of China government-in-exile did not have the right to rule the people of Taiwan. I hope one day everyone stands up and shouts “President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, you do not have the authority to rule us Taiwanese, we want to establish our own country and be the masters of it.”
Yang Liu Hsiu-hwa is chairman of the International Cultural Fund.