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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Taiwan's legal status has its place inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 15

Translation is a difficult job, and the purpose of this post is by no means to criticize either the translator or the newspaper's editor, but rather to raise concerns over the Taiwan's prosecutors' active pursuit of Roger C.S. Lin and former President Chen Shui-bian with charges of treason following the KMT's misinterpretation of the recent outcome of the US Supreme Court's dismissal of Lin v. USA and to stress the rights of Taiwanese to choose their own nationality.

Main content
The editorial page of the Friday, October 23, 2009 Taipei Times has a translation of a piece by Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP) chairman Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深) titled "Taiwan's history has no place in US courts" which discusses the results of the case of Roger C. S. Lin (林志昇) et al v. United States of America. After reading it through, I wasn't quite sure whether the author's message had been translated completely or correctly.

Fortunately, I was able to find the original Chinese-language piece to compare with the original as well as another related piece. I don't know if the changes were due to a lack of space in the newspaper or for other reasons, but I just don't know if it was such a good idea to cut off some of the author's words in a translated piece.

The following is the comparison of a paragraph from the original alongside the Taipei Times' translation. Note that the text I've colored red in the original is missing from the translation:

[Taipei Times' translation:]
While the US recognized and supported the ROC government in exile on Taiwan, US officials reiterated at major times such as 1954, 1971, 2004 and 2007 that the status of Taiwan and the Pescadores (Penghu) was yet to be determined. [My note: The reference to the status being "undetermined" means that neither Taiwan nor Penghu belonged to China from the outset. The author was trying to say that if it belonged to China, Taiwan's status would not have been said to be "undetermined." This crucial phrase from the original piece was either not translated to begin with or was omitted by the editor.]

Why would they have made these comments if Taiwan really was an unincorporated territory under USMG? [My note: This whole sentence didn't exist in the original text, but was added to explain the meaning of "undetermined," and I think the omission of the above phrase and the addition of that "explanatory" sentence was not very fair to the author.]

Also, why has the US not dared to refer to our government as the ROC "government" and simply addressing it as the ROC ever since the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) took effect in 1979? [My note: If the phrase "the ROC government has not been recognized since 1979" was translated out instead of simply quoting the word "government," the author's idea would have been conveyed more clearly here. See also the "Editor's note" at the bottom of this post.]

We have to understand the issue of Taiwan's status in light of the abovementioned background. The Resolution on Taiwan's Future ratified by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1999 posed new directions for Taiwan's future and this was closely linked with democratization and localization actions taken by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in the 1990s. However, President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) current line is in complete contradiction with Lee-era policies and there really is now a definite need for things to be clearly reviewed and new "resolutions" to be made.
Below, I will share my thoughts derived from reading this piece.

All we can see from the case of Lin et al v. US is that the US court does not want to give a ruling involving US foreign policy as it has no jurisdiction over a matter that is to be determined by the US executive branch. But the fact remains that neither the US nor any other country in the world (except the KMT-ROC) has ever recognized the transfer of Formosa's sovereignty from Japan to the ROC. Even then-ROC foreign minister Yeh Kung-chao admitted that the delicate international situation makes it that Taiwan and Penghu do not belong to China. They have the intention of settling the status of Formosa pending on the outcome of the Chinese Civil War. But in the meantime, as Taiwanese opposed the KMT's dictatorial rule and Taiwanese nationalism evolved, local residents' rights as guaranteed by Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) will have to be respected.

Unfortunately, this simple rejection of US Supreme Court to review the previous court ruling of lack of jurisdiction is being taken by the KMT-ROC as meaning that the US recognizes the ROC's sovereignty over Formosa, and therefore in active pursuit of charging Lin and former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) with treason. That is just too much!

The US must react to this latest judicial nonsense. Otherwise, people in Taiwan doing research on Taiwan's legal status could all-too-easily be charged with treason by the biased KMT-ROC kangaroo court for simply not recognizing the ROC's sovereignty over Taiwan. The KMT-ROC is scared only of the US. I wonder why. (A hidden boss?) It is OK for US officials to say the ROC is not a country or that the ROC has no sovereignty over Taiwan. But it is not OK for the Japanese representative to say so. KMT legislators want the Ma administration to evict the current Japanese representative. Worse still, Taiwanese residents are definitely not allowed to speak the truth in this matter. They might be charged with treason when, ironically, the people whom public opinion says would deserve this the most would only be people like Ma Ying-jeou, Lien Chan, etc.

After the war, the Allies did send the KMT-ROC to administer Formosa, but as early as 1947, Formosan residents showed signs of discontent (which, actually, was building-up long before February 28, 1947) due to the KMT administration's corruption and its discrimination against local residents. But the problem was not addressed immediately. The US supported Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and ignored the discontent simply because he was an ally who fought communism.

It's too late to reverse history, and too late to comfort those families whose loved ones were executed by dictator Chiang during Taiwan's White Terror. But it is never too late to speak one's conscience now and to support the rights of Taiwanese as guaranteed by the UDHR. Taiwanese have the right to a nationality of their choice, and since there is no longer a Chinese Civil War, mainlanders who prefer to go back to embrace their original motherland are free to go, and any mainlanders who wish to become Taiwanese citizens are free to stay. But forcing all Taiwanese to become Chinese citizens -- whether it be citizens of the no-longer-recognized ROC or the currently-recognized PRC -- is totally unacceptable.

Contrary to its founding principles (especially noting the one that says that governments "deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed,"), the US government has ignored human rights of others while giving priority to its own national and international interests. As democracy and human rights developed in Taiwan and have been in conflict with the US foreign interests, the human rights of Taiwanese have been ignored again and again. There is a consistent trail of betrayal of these principles.

It is inevitable that a referendum must be held by Taiwan's residents to resolve the future status of Taiwan. Then the people be guaranteed their rights to move freely according to their choice of nationality. It is not like the US says, that as long as it is resolved peacefully between the people on two sides of the Strait (adding one condition: that the US's China policy does not support Taiwan independence to give a tilted favor obviously towards the evil human rights abuser, CCP-PRC), anything goes.

I simply hope that countries -- especially the European ones listed in the UN's "Human Development Report" (15 of the top 20 are in Europe) -- can soon realize that if the CCP-PRC government can threaten Taiwan with missiles now and can even extend its influence onto Australian and German soil now, the CCP-PRC will continue to be increasingly encouraged to increase its bullying around the world.

So, Europeans, speak up, and support Taiwanese rights to a nationality of their choice through a referendum. No one should be denied the rights guaranteed to them by the UDHR. No country's status should remain undetermined for more than half a century just because it suits some other country's strategic plan.

Further references:
* The ROC didn't include Taiwan in its territory in the 1925 draft of its constitution which listed all the provinces of China:
Though the constitution promulgated in 1946 did not define the territory of the Republic of China, while the draft of the constitution of 1925 individually listed the provinces of the Republic of China and Taiwan was not among them, since Taiwan was part of Japan as the result of the Treaty of Shimonoseki of 1895.
* An excerpt from the Starr Memo of 1971 states:
The same language was used in Article 2 of the Treaty of Peace between China and Japan [My note: AKA the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty or the Treaty of Taipei] signed on April 28, 1952. In neither treaty did Japan cede this area to any particular entity. As Taiwan and Pescadores are not covered by any existing international disposition, sovereignty over the area is an unsettled question subject to future international resolution.
Editor's note on problematic translation
Once again, from the Taipei Times version:
Also, why has the US not dared to refer to our government as the ROC "government" and simply addressing it as the ROC ever since the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) took effect in 1979?
This sentence makes it sound like the US refers to Taiwan as the "ROC" even today. The fact is that in the TRA (whose "T" stands for "Taiwan"), the "ROC" is basically consigned to the dustbin of history from the US perspective. Each and every reference to the ROC in that document talk about "the governing authorities on Taiwan recognized by the United States as the Republic of China prior to January 1, 1979."

(This post was edited by Tim Maddog.)

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