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國際

The Issue of Taiwan’s Independence

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Empty talk on patriotism and nationalism would mean nothing if people's well-being and individual rights and freedom are not taken into serious account and priority consideration. Human rights and freedom should be above every other things else; no matter they are the so-called General Will of the People, the General Good of Society or the Overall Interest of the Country and anything in the name of Party, Great Leader, Nationalism, Patriotism or even a nation’s Sovereignty.
The concept of a nation’s  sovereignty was born with the rise of modern nation-states when nationalism had been given stimulation by the French Revolution in 1789 and Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century. With the rise of nationalism and  nation-states, many peoples have tried to attribute to the sovereignty of a nation the feature of absoluteness in order to consolidate or expand national territorial gains. This was reasonable and logical in time of nationalistic and even ultra-nationalistic fever. However, the sovereignty of a country/nation has never been absolute and the territorial integration or expansion of a country/nation has also never been absolute even with rapid development and spreading of nationalism. In the 19th and the most part of the 20th centuries, many peoples have gained their independences through revolutionary means or wars of independence. The Americans gained their independence through the War of Independence in 1774 against the British who had the sovereignty over the 13 colonies in North America. The Belgians rose against the Dutch’s rule and gained their independence from the United Netherlands in the 1830s. The Greeks, the Bulgarians, the Romanians and the Serbians also gained their independence one by one from their sovereign, the Turkish Sultan’s Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. The Italians gained their independence and achieved national unification after shaking off the rule of the Austrians who had sovereignty over a number of Italian states. The process of national independence had quickened after the end of First World War when the sovereignty of Habsburg monarchy had disintegrated and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been divided into two independent nations, i.e. Austria and Hungary. The Southern Slavs had too gained their independence from the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire and declared the formation of Yugoslavia after WWI with the Serbians as the dominant race, which was in fact the realization of the century-old dream of the Serbians of a Great Serbia. However, the different peoples such as Croatians, Bosnians, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Albanians within the Federation of Yugoslavia, though of the same wider-sense race of Southern Slav and speak a common language Serb, would not like to be ruled by the Serbians and thus demanded their independences from Yugoslavia. The independences of the peoples mentioned above had been achieved gradually after Yugoslavia had changed from a communist country to a democratic one in the 1990s through bloody wars and violence. The latest example is certainly the independence of Kosovo which has been regarded by Serbia as its last“inseparable sovereign territory". In Asia there are also no lacking of examples. The people in East Pakistan had broken with their Pakistani brother to form an independent country, the Bangladesh Republic after a bloody war in 1971. The Bangladesh and the Pakistani are of the same race with the same religion, Islamism. The tiny colonial state of Portugal East Timor had also fought and gained its independence from its big neighbour Indonesia who had annexed it through brutal war of invasion. All these examples prove that the sovereignty of a country has never been absolute and the territorial integration or expansion of a country has also never been absolute. Here, the will of the majority of the people was decisive.
In Western democratic countries, however, peoples have gained their independence mostly through peaceful and democratic means because their rights of free expression including the right to independence have been safeguarded by their constitutions. Peoples can seek their independence within a democratic country if this is done within the framework of democracy and through the due process as manipulated and decided by law. To take a few examples: the people in the French-dominated area of Quebec in Canada have repeatedly been granted by the Canadian Federal Government the right to hold plebiscite/referendum to decide on whether Quebec would still remain in the federal Canada or not. The people in Northern Ireland have also been given many opportunities to make decision on their future on whether the Northern Ireland would remain in the United Kingdom or not. The IRA took up arms against the legal rule of UK only after they had failed to separate Northern Ireland from the UK through legal means of referendum because the separatist Catholics formed only about 1/3 of the total population in Northern Ireland. The former communist Czechoslovakia was divided into two countries of Czech and Slovakia through referendum after Czechoslovakia had become a free and democratic country in 1990. The 15 republics within the former communist Soviet Union were also allowed to become independent after the Soviet Union had disintegrated and become a democratic and free Russia in 1990s. All these examples prove that every people have the sacred right to seek their independence if it is done through democratic process within democratic framework of a country and that this sacred right should be and has been respected in democratic countries. However, in the undemocratic, tyrannical or totalitarian countries, where the peoples have always been oppressed by the ruling regime of the dominant race and have no democratic and free ways to express their grievances and exercise their right to independence, they have every right to achieve their aims by revolutionary means or even by wars of independence.
So the propagation of patriotism and nationalism will not help the CCP to justify its illegitimate rule in the Mainland, not to mention its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. If a ruling regime like the CCP is not chosen by its people, the regime is without mandate and is subject to change by people’s will; Any dictatorial government which is oppressive and cruel to its people will sooner or later be changed by peaceful means or overthrown by revolution. In doing this, the sovereignty is passed to the people. Only people’s sovereignty or popular sovereignty is legitimate and can only be changed through democratic mechanism and due process decided by law.
By this recognition, the people in Taiwan have every right to express their free will on their future because the so-called 1.3 billion Mainland people's will is in fact controlled and manipulated by a small handful of Communist leaders. Mainland Chinese people's real will has no free way to express itself. Hong Kong people's will had also been ignored in 1997 with the same theory saying that HK people had no right to decide HK's future and the result is a dictated system imposed by the CCP which has led to HK's political stagnation in democratic development in the past ten years. The half a million people's demonstration on July 1 2003 was in fact an outburst of long suppressed people's will against the incapable Mr. Tung's Government which was set up without people’s mandate and under the totalitarian control and direct influence of the CCP. Now Mr. Donald Tsang’s new government is facing the same situation as Mr. Tung when Hong Kong people are pressing for early universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
Judging from the above historical, contemporary, local as well as overseas experience, Taiwan's future should be decided only when Mainland China also becomes democratic and people's real will can express itself freely there. In the near future, Taiwan and Mainland China should remain what they are now and no intimidation and thread of war should be imposed by the communist Mainland on the democratic Taiwan. I have no objection to the notion that Taiwan is part of China ( but not necessarily the People’s Republic of China) and I am not totally against the idea of reunification of Taiwan with Mainland China. What I’ve emphasized here is people’s well-beings and their rights to freedom of expression including their right to demand for independence. Human rights and freedom should be above everyother things else!! Quoting historical evidences to prove that Taiwan is part of China cannot justify brutal ignoring of Taiwan people's free will. By this recognition, Tibet and Xinjiang, though belonging to the same case as Taiwan in respect of universal human rights,  have their special ethnic and cultural features, thus special reasons and stronger legitimacy to seek their independence because they do not belong to the same ethnic Chinese(Han) race. I may deal with the cases of Tibet and Xinjiang in another article later.

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