Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday defended the decision to describe the period between 1895 and 1945, when Taiwan was under the administration of Japan, as “Japanese occupation” (日據) rather than “Japanese rule” (日治) in government documents.
That was because Taiwan, during the decades after Japan won the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, was under Japanese colonial rule, Jiang said.
His comments came after the Executive Yuan issued a statement at 10pm on Monday, saying the period would now be referred to as “Japanese occupation” in correspondence between government agencies at the central and local levels.
“When Japan started to rule Taiwan, Taiwanese never ceased to rebel against Japanese colonialism during the colonial period. The Republic of China [ROC] went through the eight-year War of Resistance [against Japan] so the unequal Treaty of Shimonoseki was repealed and Taiwan returned to the ROC,” Jiang said.
The period “seemed to us of course to be a form of occupation, colonialism,” he said.
“It was like it was in Korea, where the period in which the country was under Japanese rule [from 1910 to 1945] is either described as the time of ‘Japanese forced occupation’ or ‘occupation by Imperial Japan.’ Any country with dignity should phrase [colonial rule] this way,” Jiang said.
There has been a controversy over which term should be used by the government since a recent Ministry of Education review of high-school history textbooks found both terms were used.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said last week that while he preferred the term “Japanese occupation,” a democratic society meant that others should be free to use the term “Japanese rule.”
In its statement, the Executive Yuan said it had the right and obligation to standardize the way to describe the period “to maintain the ROC’s sovereignty and dignity of the people.”
It said it would notify all agencies that they must follow the policy. However, high-school textbooks would not have to follow the policy out of respect for publishers’ interpretations of history, it said.
Jiang said that after thorough discussions with the Ministry of Education, the period could either be termed as “Japanese rule” or “Japanese occupation” to protect academic freedom.
The announcement of the policy came one day after the Executive Yuan was urged by pro-independence civic groups and Taiwanese historians to keep the phrase “Japanese rule” in high-school textbooks in accordance with the national curriculum approved by the previous Democratic Progressive Party administration.
Pan-blue politicians and pro-unification academics have been recommending revising the curriculum ever since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday defended the Executive Yuan’s decision.
Wang Wen-lung (王文隆), director of the KMT’s party history center, said Japan sent troops and won the First Sino-Japanese War against China’s Qing Dynasty, after which it occupied Taiwan.
“The then-Japanese empire suppressed the people of the Republic of China and took over the authority against our will, and so ‘Japanese occupation’ should be a proper term to describe the period,” he said.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) also backed the Executive Yuan’s decision and said the city would use “Japanese occupation” in all official documents.
However, pro-independence groups said the government’s use of “Japanese occupation” is an attempt to deny Taiwan’s existence by identifying it during that period as the ROC, which was not founded until 1912, 17 years after Japanese colonial rule began in Taiwan.