Historians criticize ‘occupation’ policy

DIVISIVE TERM::The government has decided to call Japan’s rule an ‘occupation,’ but academics say it was not, because the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan

By Tang Chia-ling and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 - Page 4

The government’s move to describe the 50-year period when Taiwan was under Japan’s administration as “Japanese occupation” (日據) rather than “Japanese rule” (日治) has been criticized by a group of historians over what they said was the Executive Yuan’s arbitrary policy.

“Taiwan was ceded to Japan in perpetuity [by the Qing Dynasty] in accordance with the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, meaning that the latter had the legitimate right of sovereignty over the former and its rule did not constitute a wartime military occupation,” said Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), an associate researcher at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.

Chen said that since President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration insisted on handling the issue in such an arbitrary manner and “was clearly unable to understand human languages,” the government “can do as it pleases with its own internal correspondence,” but added that he would stick to the term of using “the Japanese rule period” when teaching that period of history.

Meanwhile, a number of pro-localization groups, including the Southern Taiwan Society, the Northern Taiwan Society, the Central Taiwan Society, the Taiwan Hakka Society and the Union of Education in Taiwan, also issued a joint statement on Monday lambasting the new regulation.

The statement accused Ma of attempting to “de-Taiwanize” the public and to incorporate Taiwan’s history as part of China’s history by blurring the lines between the two.

It also said that the regulation not only ran counter to historical facts and Taiwan’s mainstream public opinion on that part of history, but also risked “challenging” Taiwanese people’s deep-seated emotions regarding the matter.

Taiwan Association of University Professors deputy chairman Hsu Wen-tang (許文堂) said the new regulation could be the Ma administration’s attempt to state its position on China’s “one China” policy.

“The UN has clearly stated that ‘China’ is used to refer to the People’s Republic of China [PRC] and the Ma administration is only fooling its people by saying that it means the Republic of China,” Hsu said, adding that the Executive Yuan’s handling of the issue was meant to pressure the Ministry of Education into adopting the same standard.

In response, Ministry of Education Secretary-General Wang Tsuo-tai (王作台) reiterated that both “the Japanese rule period” and “the Japanese occupation period” were allowed to be used in textbooks.

“The ministry respects each textbook writer’s own interpretation of historical events as long as they do not go beyond the statutory curriculum in a bid to protect their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution and to conform to the curriculum regulations and the legislative purposes of allowing privately compiled textbooks,” Wang said.

Additional Reporting by Rachel Lin