"Self -Determination and Fairness for Taiwan
The Case for Changing the
United State's 'Strategic Ambiguity' Policy"

Since the end of World War II the United States has held a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ towards the island of Taiwan. In the name of self-determination and fairness, it is past time for this policy to change.

While the goal of changing any entrenched policy is a difficult one – a Taiwanese educational and advocacy group is leading the charge. The Taiwanese Civil Government (TCG), headed by respected business leader Dr. Roger Lin, is arguing that now is the time for the Taiwanese people to finally enjoy the freedom they deserve to determine their own nationality.

Since its inception in 2008, the TCG, which holds weekly education courses to promote normalizing Taiwan’s international legal status, has experienced application rates as high as 2,000-3,000 Taiwanese monthly. Today the TCG boasts over 60 offices with more than 40,000 members nationwide. “TCG’s goals are to achieve the normalization of Taiwan’s legal status and to obtain human rights protection for the people of Taiwan,” Dr. Lin stated. “Without these freedoms and protections, the people of Taiwan will remain stateless, and with no internationally recognized government. We have been living in political purgatory for more than 70 years, and immediately deserve the right to a nationality of our own choosing,“ he added.

To further his goals, Dr. Lin and the TCG, which is not part of the official Taiwanese government, have taken the fight to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, making the case that the current international position of Taiwan and its people violates the human rights of that populus. They are asking the court for declaratory relief that their rights are being violated under international law as reflected by the United Nations Charter regarding human rights, thus creating a pathway for a Taiwanese referendum. See Lin v. the United States and the Republic of China, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-00295 (CKK).

To understand the TCG’s arguments and the reason behind the United State’s ongoing “strategic ambiguity” policy, it is important to understand the history of Taiwan. Post Dutch and Spanish control in 15th and 16th centuries, Taiwan was most recently controlled by Japan from 1895 until the end of WWII. When the U.S. defeated Japan, it ostensibly took over control of Taiwan as well. However, rather than administering its duties of sovereignty and direct governance, the U.S. placed an administrator in charge of Taiwan --Chiang Kai Shek. He had recently fought and lost a battle against the communists on mainland China, and was also a good friend of General Douglas MacArthur.

Chiang Kai-Shek’s first order of business was to unilaterally strip anyone living on Taiwan of their entrenched Japanese identity, and instead declare everyone a national of the Republic of China (ROC). While the U.S. began supporting Taiwan financially and militarily, it also began a policy of ambiguity on other issues, including Taiwanese nationality and ROC occupation. This partial policy approach was memorialized in the 1951 Peace Treaty of San Francisco, when Japan accepted its defeat and relinquished any control over Taiwan. However, once more, the treaty did not address the sovereignty concerns of the Taiwanese, and neither confirmed U.S. sovereignty, nor granted any other nation, including Taiwan, sovereignty or control. This policy of ambiguity has remained in place to this day.

Since the 1951 treaty, the U.S. - Taiwan policy has continued to include financial as well as military aid, which implicitly includes defending Taiwan from any potential military attack, with a specific eye towards neighboring Communist China. In 1995-96, for example, in response to a People’s Republic of China (PRC) military build-up aimed at Taiwan, the U.S. sent two aircraft carriers and support ships to the region as a show of force. The PRC eventually backed down, averting a military conflict. However, the point was made clear that the U.S. would not stand idly by and allow mainland China to threaten Taiwan.

The U.S.’s strategic policy towards Taiwan made sense post WWII and during the Cold War. The ‘Domino Theory,’ after all, was founded on the concern that if one country falls to communism, then a succession of surrounding countries could follow, leading towards a broader global expansion of communism. The theory was the driving force behind US conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Taiwan, given its proximity to the PRC, has been a part of that calculation and strategy.

As we have seen very recently, however, long standing US foreign policy can change. The US has just opened up economic relations with Cuba, closing another chapter from the Cold War story. This major shift in foreign policy occurred without regime change in Cuba or its government moving away from communism to a market economy.

U.S. economic relationship building has also had an increased focus on Asia, with the centerpiece of this policy being the recently signed, 11 nation Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Additionally, our relationship with the PRC has been front and center in the U.S. Presidential election with several candidates from both parties calling for tougher trade relations with them. What does this mean for Taiwan and the policy of “strategic ambiguity”?

It means that while the U.S. can and should continue its policies of support, the ambiguity of a policy that has spanned 7 decades and has bled into a brand new century should no longer hold Taiwan hostage. The TCG argues that the people of Taiwan are suffering human rights violations in opposition to international norms that protect populations against arbitrary denationalization. Several international legal instruments reflect prohibitions against arbitrary denationalization. Specifically:

  • The UN Charter states that its purpose is “[t]o develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”
  • Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document meant to supplement the definition of “fundamental freedoms” and “human rights” in the United Nations Charter, and has been referenced as “an obligation for the members of the international community to all persons.”
  • The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (“1961 Convention”) is a detailed reflection of customary international law on the subject of the individual and the collective right to determine one’s own nationality
  • Article 7(6) of the 1961 Convention articulates the basic international norm that a person shall not lose their nationality if such a loss would render him stateless.

Taiwan has approached the United Nations six times to get its own seat at the table, and each time Taiwan has been rebuffed. Currently Taiwanese citizens travel the world not knowing whether the country they land in will even recognize their Taiwanese passport as valid. But Taiwan, a country only slightly larger than Massachusetts and Connecticut combined, has as much a right to its own recognized nationality as any other country on the planet.

Regardless of the unintended consequences that took place at a time when Truman, Churchill and Stalin controlled world maps, it is time for the United States to right an unintended wrong and allow a referendum in Taiwan for self-determination. The U.S. must not continue its posture of denial – particularly from a human rights standpoint – to continue to accommodate outdated foreign policies and old loyalties. Dr. Lin and the TCG are sending a powerful signal to the U.S., the UN and the world that the Taiwanese people deserve a nationality decided by their own citizens that will forever be recognized by the world.





為進一步達成目標,林秘書長與台灣民政府(非屬於台灣官方政府),向美國哥倫比亞特區聯邦法庭提出訴訟案,主張台灣與台灣人民目前國際地位違反人權。他們要求法庭作出宣告判決依聯合國大憲章有關人權規定的國際法,台灣人應擁有的權利被侵奪。以此,他們為開立一條台灣人民公投途徑。請看Lin v. the United States and the Republic of China, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-00295 (CKK)







• 聯合國憲章規定,其旨在「在尊重人民平等權利和自決原則的基礎上發展各國間的友好關係,並採取適當措施加強世界和平。」
• 「世界人權宣言」第 15 條指出:
(1) 每個人都有權擁有國籍。
(2) 不應強行剝奪任何人的國籍以及駁回其更改國籍的權利。
• 「世界人權宣言」是用於補充聯合國憲章中對「基本人權」和「人權」定義的文件,並且被當做「國際社會成員乃至所有人的義務」加以引用。
• 「1961 年減少無國籍狀態公約」(以下簡稱「1961 年公約」)是國際慣例法對確定自己國籍的個人和集體權利的具體體現。
• 「1961 年公約」第 7(6) 條闡明了任何人不得失去其國籍(如果失去國籍會使人處於無國籍狀態)的基本國際準則。



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