Legal status of Taiwan
||It has been suggested that this article be merged with Political status of Taiwan. (Discuss) Proposed since December 2012.|
The legal status of Republic of China (commonly known as Taiwan) is a controversial issue which stems from the complex post-Second World War history of Taiwan. Various claims have been made by the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (ROC), and supporters of Taiwan independence over this question, with a variety of arguments advanced by all sides. The question has significant bearing on the political status of Taiwan and touches upon many aspects of international law. In practice, sovereignty over Taiwan is exercised by the Republic of China.
Taiwan (Formosa) including the Pescadores were permanently ceded by Qing Dynasty China to Imperial Japan via Articles 2b and 2c of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 8 May 1895 in one of what the Chinese term as an unequal treaty. Kinmen and Matsu Islands on the coast of Fukien, and the islands in the South China Sea currently administered by the Republic of China on Taiwan were not part of the cession.
In 1895, subsequent to the Treaty of Shimonoseki, officials in Taiwan declared independence in the hope of returning the island to Qing rule. The Republic of Taiwan (1895) collapsed after 12 days due to political infighting, but local leaders continued resistance in the hope of achieving self-rule. The incoming Japanese crushed the island's independence bid in a five-month campaign.
The Chinese Qing Dynasty was subsequently overthrown and replaced by the Republic of China (ROC). Upon the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the ROC declared the Treaty of Shimonoseki void in its declaration of war on Japan. The war soon merged with World War II, and Japan was subsequently defeated in 1945 by the Allied Powers, of which the ROC was a part.
The United States entered the War in December 1941. Most military attacks against Japanese installations and Japanese troops in Taiwan were conducted by United States military forces. At the Cairo Conference, the U.S., United Kingdom, and the ROC agreed that Taiwan was to be restored to the ROC after the war. This agreement was enunciated in the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration, which outlined the terms of Japanese surrender, specified that the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out.
When Japan unconditionally surrendered, it accepted in its Instrument of Surrender the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. Whether the sovereignty of Taiwan, was formally transferred or not at that time is disputed. Japanese troops in Taiwan were directed to surrender to the representatives of the Supreme Allied Commander in the China Theater, Chiang Kai-shek (i.e. the Republic of China military forces) on behalf of the Allies, according to the directions of General Douglas MacArthur, head of the United States Military Government, in General Order No. 1, which was issued 2 September 1945. Chief Executive Chen Yi of Republic of China soon proclaimed "Taiwan Retrocession Day" on 25 October 1945.
When the 228 Incident erupted on February 28, 1947, the U.S. Consulate-General in Taipei prepared a report in early March, calling for an immediate intervention in the name of the U.S. or the United Nations. Based on the argument that the Japanese surrender did not formally transfer sovereignty, Taiwan was still legally part of Japan and occupied by the United States (with administrative authority for the occupation delegated to the Chinese Nationalists), and a direct intervention was appropriate for a territory with such status. This proposed intervention, however, was rejected by the U.S. State Department. In a news report on the aftermath of the 228 Incident, some Taiwanese residents were reported to be talking of appealing to the United Nations to put the island under an international mandate, since China's possession of Taiwan had not been formalized by any international treaties by that time and the island was therefore still under belligerent occupation.1 They later made a demand for a treaty role to be represented at the forthcoming peace conference on Japan, in the hope of requesting a plebiscite to determine the island's political future.2
At the start of 1950, U.S. President Harry S. Truman appeared to accept the idea that sovereignty over Taiwan was already settled when the United States Department of State stated that "In keeping with these [Cairo and Potsdam] declarations, Formosa was surrendered to Generalissimo Chiang-Kai Shek, and for the past 4 years, the United States and Other Allied Powers have accepted the exercise of Chinese authority over the Island."3 However, after the outbreak of the Korean War, Truman decided to "neutralize" Taiwan claiming that it could otherwise trigger another world war. In June 1950, President Truman, who had previously given only passive support to Chiang Kai-shek and was prepared to see Taiwan fall into the hands of the Chinese Communists, vowed to stop the spread of communism and sent the U.S. Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent the PRC from attacking Taiwan, but also to prevent the ROC from attacking mainland China. He then declared that "the determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations."4 President Truman later reaffirmed the position "that all questions affecting Formosa be settled by peaceful means as envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations" in his special message to the Congress in July 1950.5 The PRC denounced his moves as flagrant interference in the internal affairs of China.
On 8 September 1950, President Truman ordered John Foster Dulles, then Foreign Policy Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State, to carry out his decision on "neutralizing" Taiwan in drafting the Treaty of Peace with Japan (San Francisco Peace Treaty) of 1951. According to George H. Kerr's memoir Formosa Betrayed, Dulles devised a plan whereby Japan would first merely renounce its sovereignty over Taiwan without a recipient country to allow the sovereignty over Taiwan to be determined together by the United States, the United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and Republic of China on behalf of other nations on the peace treaty. The question of Taiwan would be taken into the United Nations (which the ROC was still part), if these four parties could not reach into an agreement within one year.
When Japan regained sovereignty over itself in 1952 with the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace with Japan (San Francisco Peace Treaty) with 48 nations, Japan renounced all claims and title over Taiwan and the Pescadores. Many claim that Japanese sovereignty only terminated at that point.6 Notably absent at the peace conference was the ROC which was expelled from mainland China in December 1949 as a result of the Chinese Civil War and had retreated to Taiwan. The PRC, which was proclaimed 1 October 1949, was also not invited. The lack of invitation was probably due to the dispute over which government was the legitimate government of China (which both governments claimed to be); however, Cold War considerations might have played a part as wellcitation needed. Some major governments represented in the San Francisco Conference, such as the UK and Soviet Union, had already established relations with the PRC, while others, such as the U.S. and Japan, still held relations with the ROC.
The UK at that time stated for the record that the San Francisco Peace Treaty "itself does not determine the future of these islands," and therefore the UK, along with Australia and New Zealand, was happy to sign the peace treaty.7 One of the major reasons that the delegate from the Soviet Union gave for not signing the treaty was that: "The draft contains only a reference to the renunciation by Japan of its rights to these territories [Taiwan] but intentionally omits any mention of the further fate of these territories."7
Article 25 of this treaty officially stipulated that only the Allied Powers defined in the treaty could benefit from this treaty. China was not listed as one of the Allied Powers; however, article 21 still provided limited benefits from Articles 10 and 14(a)2 for China. Japan's cession of Taiwan is unusual in that no recipient of Taiwan was stated as part of Dulles's plan of "neutralizing" Taiwan. The ROC protested its lack of invitation to the San Francisco Peace conference, to no avail.
Subsequently, the Treaty of Taipei was concluded between the ROC and Japan on 28 April 1952(effective 5 August), where Japan basically re-affirmed the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and formalized the peace between the ROC and Japan. It also nullified all previous treaties made between China and Japan, implicitly repealing the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Article 10 of the treaty specifies:
"For the purposes of the present Treaty, nationals of the Republic of China shall be deemed to include all the inhabitants and former inhabitants of Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores) and their descendants who are of the Chinese nationality in accordance with the laws and regulations which have been or may hereafter be enforced by the Republic of China in Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores)."
However, the ROC Minister of Foreign Affairs George Kung-ch'ao Yeh told the Legislative Yuan after signing the treaty that: "The delicate international situation makes it that they [Taiwan and Penghu] do not belong to us. Under present circumstances, Japan has no right to transfer [Taiwan] to us; nor can we accept such a transfer from Japan even if she so wishes."7 In July 1971 the U.S. State Department's position was, and remains: "As Taiwan and the Pescadores are not covered by any existing international disposition, sovereignty over the area is an unsettled question subject to future international resolution."7
||This section may contain original research. (May 2009)|
Today, the ROC is the de facto government of Taiwan; whereas the PRC is the de facto government over Mainland China. However, each government claims to be the legitimate government of all China de jure. The arguments below are frequently used by proponents and/or opponents of these claims.
Arguments common to both the PRC and ROC
The ROC and PRC both officially support the One China policy and thus share common arguments. In the arguments below, "Chinese" is an ambiguous term that could mean the PRC and/or ROC as legal government(s) of China.
- The waging of aggressive war by Japan against China in 1937 and beyond violates the peace that was brokered in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. In 1941, with the declaration of war against Japan, the Chinese government declared this treaty void ab initio (never happened in the first place). Therefore, some argue that, with no valid transfer of sovereignty taking place, the sovereignty of Taiwan naturally belongs to China.8
- The Cairo Declaration of 1 December 1943 was accepted by Japan in its surrender. This document states that Taiwan was to be restored to the Republic of China at the end of World War II.9 Likewise, the Potsdam Declaration of 26 July 1945, also accepted by Japan, implies that it will no longer have sovereignty over Taiwan by stating that "Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands".10
- The proclamation of Taiwan Retrocession Day on October 25, 1945, by the ROC (when the PRC had not yet been founded) was entirely uncontested. Had another party been sovereign over Taiwan, that party would have had a period of years in which to protest, and its failure to do so represents cession of rights in the manner of prescription. The lack of protest by any non-Chinese government persists to this day, further strengthening this argument.11
- The exclusion of Chinese governments (both ROC and PRC) in the negotiation process of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) nullified any legal binding power of the SFPT on China, including any act of renouncing or dispossing of sovereignty. In addition, the fact that neither ROC nor PRC government ever ratified SFPT terms, prescribes that the SFPT is irrelevant to any discussion of Chinese sovereignty.dubious
- Even if the SFPT were determinative, it should be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Potsdam and Cairo Declarations, therefore sovereignty would still have been transferred to China.12
- SFPT's validity has come into question as some of the countries participating in the San Francisco conference, such as the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and North and South Korea refused to sign the treaty.13
- Assuming SFPT is valid in determining the sovereignty over Taiwan, Japan, in the article 2 of the SFPT, renounced all rights, without assigning a recipient, regarding Taiwan. Japan in the same article also renounced, without assigning a recipient, areas which are now internationally recognised as territories of Russia as well as other countries.dubious Given that the sovereignty of these countries over renounced areas are undisputed, the Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan must also be undisputed.13
Arguments in support of ROC sovereignty claims
- The ROC fulfills all requirements for a state according to the Convention of Montevideo, which means it has a territory, a people, and a government.
- The ROC continues to exist since its establishment in 1911, only on a reduced territory after 1949.
- The creation and continuity of a state is only a factual issue, not a legal question. Declarations and recognition by other states can't have any impact on their existence. According to the declaratory theory of recognition, the recognition of third states are not a requirement for being a state. Most of the cited declarations by American or British politicians are not legal statements but solely political intents.
- The PRC has never exercised control over Taiwan.
- The Treaty of Taipei formalized the peace between Japan and the ROC. In it, Japan reaffirmed Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Declaration and voided all treaties conducted between China and Japan (including the Treaty of Shimonoseki).
- Applying the principle of uti possidetis with regard to the Treaty of Taipei would grant Taiwan's sovereignty to the ROC, as it is undisputed that at the coming into force of the treaty, the ROC controlled Taiwan.14
- Article 4 of the ROC Constitution clearly states that "The territory of the Republic of China" is defined "according to its existing national boundaries..." Taiwan was historically part of China and is therefore naturally included therein. Also, as Treaty of Shimonoseki is void ab initiodubious , China has never legally dispossessed of the sovereignty of the territory. There is, accordingly, no need to have a National Assembly resolution to include the territory.
- The ROC – USA Mutual Defense Treaty of 1955 states that "the terms "territorial" and "territories" shall mean in respect of the Republic of China, Taiwan and the Pescadores" and thus can be read as implicitly recognizing the ROC sovereignty over Taiwan.dubious 15 However, the treaty was terminated in 1980.
Arguments in support of PRC sovereignty claims
- The PRC does not recognize the validity of any of the unequal treaties the Qing signed in the "century of humiliation," as it considers them all unjust and illegal, as is the position during Transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the PRC. As such, the cession of Taiwan in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki actually never took place in a de jure fashion. The PRC, as the successor to the Qing and ROC in that order, therefore inherited the sovereignty of Taiwan.original research?
- The return of the sovereignty of Taiwan to the ROC was confirmed on October 25, 1945, on the basis of the Cairo Declaration, Potsdam Proclamation , Japanese Instrument of Surrender, and the invalidity of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. According to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, the PRC became the successor government to the ROC in representing China, and as such the PRC unquestionably holds the sovereignty of Taiwan.original research?
- In the Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China to the end of Treaty of Taipei, the document signifying the commencement of the PRC and Japan's formal relations, Japan in article 3 stated that it fully understands and respects the position of the Government of the People's Republic of China that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the territory of the People's Republic of China. Japan also firmly maintains its stand under Article 8 of the Potsdam Declaration which says "the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out". The Cairo Declaration says "All territories Japan has stolen from China, including Manchuria, Taiwan, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China". The PRC argues that it is a successor state of the ROC and is therefore entitled to all of the ROC's holdings and benefits.16
Arguments for Taiwan already being an independent, sovereign nation
- The peace that was brokered in the Treaty of Shimonoseki was breached by the Boxer Rebellion, which led to the conclusion of the Boxer Protocol of 1901 (Peace Agreement between the Great Powers and China),17 and China, not by the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Treaty of Shimonoseki was a dispositive treaty, therefore it is not voidable or nullifiable (this doctrine being that treaties specifying particular actions which can be completed, once the action gets completed, cannot be voided or reversed without a new treaty specifically reversing that clause). Hence, the unequal treaty doctrine cannot be applied to this treaty.citation needed By way of comparison, as 200,000,000 Kuping taels were not returned to China from Japan, and Korea had not become a Chinese-dependent country again, the cession in the treaty was executed and cannot be nullified. The disposition of Formosa and the Pescadores in this treaty was a legitimate cession by conquest, confirmed by treaty, and thus is not a theft, as described as "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese" in Cairo Declaration.
- It should also be noted that the Qing court exercised effective sovereignty over primarily the west coast of Taiwan only, and even then did not regard the area as an integral part of national Chinese territory.citation needed
- The "Cairo Declaration" was merely an unsigned press communique which does not carry a legal status, while the Potsdam Proclamation and Instrument of Surrender are simply modus vivendi and armistice that function as temporary records and do not bear legally binding power to transfer sovereignty. Good faith of interpretation only takes place at the level of treaties.
- The "retrocession" proclaimed by ROC in 1945 was legally null and impossible since Taiwan was still de jure part of Japan before the post-war San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect on April 28, 1952. Consequently, the announcement of the mass-naturalization of native Taiwanese persons as ROC citizens in January 1946 is unjust and void Ab initio. After the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, the sovereignty of Taiwan naturally belonged to the Taiwanese people.
- While Taiwan independence supporters once used arguments not in favor of Chinese sovereignty to dispute to legitimacy of the Kuomintang-controlled government that ruled over Taiwan, these arguments have been dropped by a majority (except the most extreme) supporters of independence due to the democratization of Taiwan. This has allowed the more moderate supporters of independence to stress the popular sovereignty theory in order to accept the legitimacy of the Republic of China (whose government the Democratic Progressive Party used to control) in Taiwan. Former President Chen Shui-bian, by his interpretation of the "Republic of China", has repeatedly confirmed that the "Republic of China is Taiwan."
- Sovereignty transfer to the ROC by prescription does not apply to Taiwan's case since:
- 1) Prescription is the manner of acquiring property by a long, honest, and uninterrupted possession or use during the time required by law. The possession must have been possessio longa, continua, et pacifica, nec sit ligitima interruptio (long, continued, peaceable, and without lawful interruption). For prescription to apply, the state with title to the territory must acquiesce to the action of the other state. Yet, PRC has never established an occupation on Taiwan and exercised sovereignty, 2) Prescription as a rule for acquiring sovereignty itself is not universally accepted. The International Court of Justice ruled that Belgium retained its sovereignty over territories even by non-assertion of its rights and by acquiescence to acts of sovereign control alleged to have been exercised by the Netherlands over a period of 109 years.,18 3) Also by way of comparison, even after 38 years of continuous control, the international community did not recognize sovereignty rights to the Gaza Strip by Israel, and the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to military rule there as of September 12, 2005, with a removal of all Israeli settlers and military bases from the Strip, 4) A pro-independence group, which formed a Provisional Government of Formosa in 2000, argued that both the 228 incident of 1947 and the Provisional Government of Formosa have constituted protests against ROC government's claim of retrocession within a reasonable twenty-five year (or more) acquiescence period,19 5) Taiwanese residents were unable to make a protest after the 228 incident due to the authoritarian rule under KMT regime which suppressed all pro-independence opinion, 6) Japan was not able to cast a protest as it was under military occupation at the time; however it did not renounce its sovereignty over Taiwan until April 28, 1952.20
Arguments by various groups that claim Taiwan should declare itself to be an independent sovereign nation
- As one of the "territories which detached from enemy states as a result of the Second World War" defined in the articles 76b and 77b of the United Nations Charter, which China signed in 1945 and also defined in the protocol of Yalta Conference, Taiwan qualifies for the UN trusteeship program, and after a period of time would later be considered fully independent. The ROC, as a founding member of the United Nations, has a treaty obligation to comply with the UN Charter and to help the people living in Taiwan enjoy the right of self-determination.
- The San Francisco Peace Treaty is definitive, where Japan ceded Taiwan (like Sakhalin and Kuril Islands etc.) without specifying a clear recipient. China was prohibitedby whom?citation needed from acquiring Taiwan sovereignty as a benefit when the treaty was finalizedoriginal research?. Moreover, the Treaty of Taipei only became effective on August 5, 1952, over three months after the coming into force of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on April 28, 1952. Hence, the Treaty of Taipei cannot be interpreted to have ceded the sovereignty of Taiwan to the ROC or the PRC, but only as a recognition of the territories which ROC had and under its control, as Japan cannot cede what it no longer possessed.
- Since the peace brokered in the Boxer Protocol of 1901 was breached by the second Sino-Japanese War, the San Francisco Peace Treaty specifies that the date to be used in returning territory to China in Article 10 was 1901, not 1895. The postliminium restoration of China was completed without sovereignty over Taiwan since Taiwan was not part of China when the first Chinese Republic was established in 1911. Moreover, the Treaty of Taipei was abrogated by Japan upon the PRC's request in 1972.
- Cession of Taiwan without a recipient was neither unusual nor unique, since Cuba, as a precedent, was ceded by Spain without recipient in Treaty of Paris of 1898 as the result of Spanish-American War. Cuba reached independence in May 1902. At the end of WWII, Libya and Somaliland were also relinquished without recipient by Italy in the Treaty of peace with Italy of 1947 and both reached independence later.
- The Nationality Law of the Republic of China was originally promulgated in February 1929. However, no amendment or change to this law or any other law has ever been made by the Legislative Yuan in the post WWII period to reflect any mass-naturalization of native Taiwanese persons as ROC citizens. This is important because Article 10 of the Treaty of Taipei specifies: "For the purposes of the present Treaty, nationals of the Republic of China shall be deemed to include all the inhabitants and former inhabitants of Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores) and their descendants who are of the Chinese nationality in accordance with the laws and regulations which have been or may hereafter be enforced by the Republic of China in Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores) ... " Since no relevant laws or regulations have ever been promulgated, there is no legal basis to consider native Taiwanese persons as ROC citizens.
- Furthermore it is recognized that the ROC government currently administering Taiwan is not the same ROC that accepted Japanese surrender in 1945, because the ruling authorities were given popular mandate by different pools of constituencies: one is the mainland Chinese electorate, the other local Taiwanese. The popular sovereignty theory, to which the Pan-Green coalition subscribes, emphasizes that Taiwan could make fundamental constitutional changes and choose a new national title by means of a popular referendum. (In contrast, the ROC legal theory, which is supported by the Pan-Blue coalition suggests that any fundamental constitutional changes would require that the amendment procedure of the ROC constitution be followed.)
- Nevertheless the popular sovereignty theory does not contradict any arguments in favor of self-determination, nor does it affirm arguments in favor of Chinese sovereignty. This means that at present the only obstacle against declaring Taiwan independence is a lack of consensus among the Taiwanese people to do so; however it is clear that the consensus is changing as the Taiwanese people begin preparations for their 15th application for entrance to the United Nations in the fall of 2007.
- The San Francisco Peace Treaty's omission of China as a participant was not an accident of history, but reflected the status that the ROC had failed to maintain its original position as the de jurewhich? and de facto government of the whole China. By fleeing of the ROC government to Taiwan island in December 1949, and the ROC is then arguably to become a government in exile status.212223 Under international lawwhich?, there are no actions which a government in exile can take in its current location of residence in order to be recognized as the local legitimate government. Hence, Taiwan's current international situation has arisen from the fact that the ROC is not completely internationally recognized as a legitimate state. (Note: the ROC government has limited recognition as the sole legitimate government of China (including Taiwan), but not as a government of Taiwan island.)
A small number of people have argued that the United States holds in trust the sovereignty over Taiwan based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty's cession of Taiwan without a recipient.24 Article 23 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty designated the US as "the principal occupying power" with respect to the territories covered by the geographical scope of the treaty, including "Formosa and the Pescadores."
The argument also states that the ROC troops were acting under the directions of the United States when taking over the administration of Taiwan after the completion of the October 25, 1945, Japanese surrender ceremonies. The principal-agent relationship between the USA and the ROC was argued to never have been formally terminated.
On October 24, 2006, Dr. Roger C. S. Lin led a group of Taiwanese residents, including members of the Taiwan Nation Party, to file a Complaint for Declaratory Relief in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. According to their lawyer, Mr. Charles Camp, "[t]he Complaint asks the Court to declare whether the Taiwanese plaintiffs, including members of the Taiwan Nation Party, have certain rights under the United States Constitution and other US laws".25 Their central argument is that, following Japanese renunciation of all rights and claims to Taiwan, Taiwan came under U.S. jurisdiction based on it being the principal occupying power as designated in the Treaty of Peace with Japan and remains so to this day. Moreover, the plaintiffs claimed that the United States has never recognized the incorporation of Taiwan into Chinese national territory.26 The defendant in this case was the United States government.
The District Court agreed with United States government on March 18, 2008 and ruled that the case presents a political question; as such, the court concluded that it had no jurisdiction to hear the matter and dismissed the complaint.2728 This decision was appealed by plaintiffs.29 The appeals court unanimously upheld the district court ruling and dismissed the appeal.30
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