"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.


"給予台灣自我決定與公正
改變美國策略性模糊政策的訴訟案"


自從二次大戰結束以來,美國對台灣抱持策略性模糊政策。以自我決定與公正之名,此政策早該改變。

改變任何根深蒂固政策的目標是困難的。一個台灣的教育與宣導團體率先致力於這個目標。台灣民政府,由受敬重的林秘書長領導,認為現在是時候台灣人終於享有決定他們自己國籍的自由。

從2008年開始,台灣民政府每週舉辦教育課程推廣台灣國際法定地位正常化,每月有2000至3000台灣人來參加上課。現今台灣民政府以60幾個辦公室,全台超過4萬名會員為豪。林秘書長表示”台灣民政府的目標是為達台灣法定地位正常化並取得本土台灣人人權保障。”他補充說明”沒有這些自由與保障,本土台灣人將持續處於無國籍狀態,沒有國際承認政府。70幾年來,我們一直生活於政治煉獄。我們應立即享有選擇自己國籍的權利。”

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)

要了解台灣民政府主張與美國目前策略性模糊政策,就必須了解台灣歷史。15與16世紀受荷蘭與西班牙管轄以後,台灣於1895年起由日本控管直到第二次世界大戰結束。當美國擊敗日本,表面上也取得台灣控制權。然而,美國沒有執行其主權義務及親自治理,而是設置一個管理者-蔣中正來掌控台灣。那時蔣中正在中國對抗中國共產黨戰敗,而且他也是麥克阿瑟的好朋友。

蔣介石對台灣下的第一個行政命令是單方面剝奪台灣居民原有的日本人身分,而且逕行宣布每個台灣居民成為中華民國國民。當美國開始於金融與軍事上支持台灣,同時也對台灣其他議題開始模糊政策,包括台灣人國籍與中華民國佔領議題。當日本接受戰敗並放棄對台控制權時,這個政策取向的一部分於1951年舊金山和平條約留下紀念。然而,再一次和平條約並未提到台灣人所關心的主權問題,既沒有確定美國領有台灣主權與管轄權,也沒有給予其他國家。這個模糊政策一直保留至今。

自1951年和平條約生效,美國對台政策繼續含括財務及軍事援助,此乃隱含欲防衛台灣免於任何潛在性軍事攻擊,特別要防守台灣旁邊的中國共產黨。例如,於1995至1996年間,美國派遣二艘航空母艦及支援船艦至該區域展示武力以回應中華人民共和國欲針對台灣的武力威脅。終究,中華人民共和國撤退,解除軍事威脅衝突。很清楚地,美國絕不會允許中國對台武力威脅並袖手旁觀。

二戰後與冷戰期間美國對台策略性政策是說得通。畢竟,多米諾(骨牌)理論立基於如果一國淪陷為共產國家,其他鄰國就會相繼跟隨淪陷,導致共產主義全球擴張的政治局面。這個理論是美國處理與韓國與越南間衝突背後動力。台灣因接近中國地緣因素也曾是其中一部分的謀算與策略。

最近我們看到美國能改變行之已久外交政策。美國已開啟與古巴經濟關係,結束另一篇冷戰故事。這個外交政策重要轉變的發生非因古巴政權改變或古巴政府脫離共產主義轉向市場經濟。

美國已經加重與亞洲經濟關係,此政策中心即為近期簽訂之11國TPP貿易協定。另外,美國與中國關係已成美國總統大選焦點話題,二黨候選人呼籲要對中國採較強硬貿易關係。對台灣及策略性模糊政策而言,這代表什麼意義?

這說明當美國有能力並應該繼續支援台灣政策之時,行之70年快進入一全新世紀的模糊政策不應再拿台灣當人質。台灣民政府認為本土台灣人正遭受人權被侵犯待遇。國際人權準則保障所有人免於被專斷剝奪國籍。許多國際法條顯示禁止專斷剝奪國籍。特別是:
• 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。

台灣6次前進聯合國爭取席位,每次皆無功而返。現在台灣人民旅行世界無法知道他們到達的國家是否會承認他們的護照有效。但是台灣,一個僅比麻州和康乃狄克州合起來面積稍大的國家,有權取得一個受國際承認的國籍就像地球上任一國家一樣。

不管是不是杜魯門、邱吉爾和史達林掌控世界版圖時發生此無心後果,現在是時候美國應矯正此錯誤給予台灣一個自我決定的公投。美國不應該一昧反對,特別是從人權立場,持續固守過時外交政策與老舊的忠誠。林秘書長與台灣民政府正向美國、聯合國與全世界傳遞一個強大訊息,那就是台灣人有權要求一個自我決定的國籍,而且這個國籍將永遠獲全世界承認。

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