Mon, Jul 30, 2007 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Sovereignty activists divided over legal status

STEP ONE Some pundits argue Taiwan must declare de jure independence before joining international organizations, while others argue the issue is already clarified

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

At the heart of the government's bid to join the UN using the name "Taiwan" is the issue of the nation's sovereignty, a divisive question even among independence activists.

For many who consider Taiwan independent, the bid for UN membership is a clear-cut case of demanding one's basic right to representation. However, some independence activists contend that the nation must seek de jure independence before applying to join the international body, as UN membership requires nationhood.

But some historians and politicians argue that independence is already clear, because Taiwan has been independent from China since 1895, when the latter ceded Taiwan and the Penghu islands in perpetuity to Japan.

In addition, some say the nation's title is technically still the "Republic of Formosa," founded by a Taiwanese government in 1895 -- a government that lasted only 184 days.

Others argue that the question of nationhood is unclear as the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty following World War II, which rescinded Japanese colonial control over Taiwan and the Penghu islands, did not specify any new government in place of the Japanese.

This has also led to the claim that the US has disposition rights over Taiwan, as some claim the US was the occupying power of the island during World War II and has never formally ended US Military Government control over Taiwan.

On July 19, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) submitted a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting UN membership using the name "Taiwan" -- a departure from previous applications using the name "Republic of China" (ROC).

The letter was submitted with the sponsorship of two of the nation's diplomatic allies -- Swaziland and the Solomon Islands. The UN Office of Legal Affairs, however, rejected the letter, citing UN Resolution 2758 as its reason.

The 1971 resolution replaced the ROC with the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the sole representative of China in the international body. It did not address the question of who represented Taiwan's population in the body.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has proposed to hold a referendum on whether to join the UN using the name "Taiwan" in conjunction with next year's legislative election. The referendum would aid the administration in its UN bid, the party has argued.

The proposal was first rejected by the Executive Yuan's Referendum Review Committee, controlled by the pan-blue camp, but it was later upheld by the Appeal Committee, also under the Executive Yuan.

With the Appeal Committee's support, the DPP is poised to proceed with a second-stage petition once the Central Election Commission has verified the authenticity of 90,000 signatures collected in the first stage of its application to hold a referendum.

Chen Lung-chu (陳隆志), a law professor at New York Law School and chief initiator of the Alliance for Taiwan to Join the United Nations formed last Thursday, said Taiwan had gradually developed de facto independence from China since the Qing Dynasty ceded it to Japan in 1895.

There is no doubt Taiwan is a nation, because it meets all four of the conventional criteria for nationhood: a population, a territory, a government and the supreme authority over affairs within its borders, he said.

Yet Taiwan is not a normalized country, he said, adding that UN membership is pivotal not only to the nation's dignity and security, but also to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

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