1982–1987: The Struggle for Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights
During the first year of FAPA’s founding, our work focused on fighting for the rights of the Taiwanese people and calling on the Kuomintang government to lift martial law. On May 20, 1982, the 33rd anniversary of the Kuomintang government’s implementation of martial law in Taiwan, the House Asian Subcommittee held a hearing on Taiwan’s martial law. FAPA’s Founding President Trong Chai and Hamline University History Professor Richard Kagan were invited to testify. On the same morning of the congressional hearing, a press conference was held to denounce the Taiwan authorities’ totalitarian oppression of the Taiwanese people.
The same afternoon, more than 35 members of Congress issued a joint statement, including Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator Claiborne Pell, and House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA), among others, calling on President Reagan to advise the Taiwan authorities to end martial law.
The statement of more than 30 lawmakers read: “May 20 is the 158th day of martial law imposed on the Polish people. The President of the United States and Congress have publicly called on Poland to lift martial law in time. But May 20 is also the day when the people of Taiwan suffer the 12,053rd day of martial law…We collectively call on the Taiwan authorities to end martial law and allow the people of Taiwan to enjoy the blessing of freedom and due process of law.”
On September 16, 1982, Rep. Steve Solarz, Chairman of the House Asian Subcommittee, introduced HR 591, calling on the Taiwanese government to lift martial law and replace it with a democratic, free and open system to protect the people of Taiwan.
On September 23, 1982, the Human Rights Panel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a congressional hearing on the religious persecution of the Presbyterian Church in Asia. Dr. Ng Chiong-hui, former director of theological education at the Geneva headquarters of the World Council of Churches, was invited to testify about the religious persecution of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan by the ruling authorities.
On December 10, 1982, the third anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident, Senator Kennedy invited representatives from the United Presbyterian Church in the USA, Amnesty International USA, and FAPA to hold a press conference on Capitol Hill. They issued a joint request for the Kuomintang government to release Lin Yi-hsiung, Pastor Kao Chun-ming, and other political and religious prisoners.
In early January 1983, FAPA President Trong Chai, the publisher of the Taiwan Tribune Luo Fuquan, and then chairman of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations Mark Chen met with former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale to discuss Taiwan. The two sides met several times again later that year. This was significant, given that Mondale was the VP when Carter formally established diplomatic ties with China and he ran for the presidency as a Democrat the following year (1984). It was meant to ensure that the mainstream political community of the United States understood the aspirations of the Taiwanese people and their pursuit of democracy.
On January 13, 1983, FAPA visited former Senator George McGovern (D-SD), who ran for president as a candidate of the Democratic Party in 1972. During the meeting, FAPA representatives extensively exchanged views on issues such as Taiwan’s future, human rights, and martial law. McGovern was sympathetic to the treatment of the Taiwanese in the current international situation. February 28, 1983, coincided with the eleventh anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué. At the “Shanghai Communiqué” hearing held by the House Asian Subcommittee, Professor Peng Ming-min testified on behalf of the Taiwanese people. Senators Kennedy, Pell, and John Glenn (D-OH), a well-known astronaut, jointly introduced Resolution 74. The next day, Solarz and Leach jointly introduced Resolution 112 in the House of Representatives. The resolution simultaneously expressed that the future of Taiwan should not only be resolved peacefully, but should also be decided by the people of Taiwan.
It marked the first time Congress publicly supported the Taiwanese people’s right of self-determination. It marked a great achievement for FAPA’s grassroots congressional diplomacy.
On November 15, 1983, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on aforementioned Resolution 74 and won an overwhelming victory. Even Senator Kennedy himself was not sure whether the resolution would pass or not. However, with the efforts of Taiwanese Americans from all over the United States and FAPA members actively contacting their senators, FAPA’s grassroots diplomacy yielded tangible results. This achievement was inspiring and also allowed the U.S. Congress to experience the strong “willingness to fight” among Taiwanese Americans. At the same time, the Chinese government expressed serious discontent and launched a protest against the United States. The Chinese General Secretary Hu Yaobang asked the U.S. government to explain this “interference in China’s internal affairs” by Congress.
In addition to pushing the Senate and House of Representatives to pass resolutions that sought to repeal martial law in Taiwan, FAPA also published articles in prominent American news media to win support for the rights of the Taiwanese people from mainstream American society.
On April 9, 1984, Professor Peng Ming-min, president of FAPA at the time, attended a hearing on the Democratic Party’s platform and testified on behalf of the Taiwanese. Professor Peng’s testimony called on the US Democratic Party to make every effort to push Taiwan to abolish martial law, release political prisoners, and hold free and open elections. He also suggested that the quality and quantity of US arms sales to Taiwan should be determined by whether the Taiwan authorities intended to promote democracy and improve human rights and the threat of the PRC encroachment upon Taiwanese security.
It marked the first time in the history of American politics that Taiwan was included in the political platform of a mainstream party, which was of great significance. (The Democratic Party and the Republican Party later successively mentioned their commitment to Taiwan in their political platforms for years to come.)
On May 31, 1984, the House Asian Subcommittee held another Taiwan hearing: “Taiwan’s Political Development under Martial Law.” Two Taiwanese witnesses were invited: Professor Tien Hung-mao and Lin Zongguang. They both stressed the importance of the abolition of martial law and the mobilization of temporary provisions to develop democracy in Taiwan.
FAPA understood that diplomatic work needed to be flexible and creative. In 1984, Miss USA Mai Shanley happened to be of mixed American and Taiwanese origin. FAPA invited Miss Shanley to participate in FAPA activities. She accepted the invitation and promised to participate in a congressional dinner, one of FAPA’s fall events.
On August 15, 1984, the US State Department notified FAPA that the Taiwan government had released Lin Yi-hsiung, Kao Chun-ming and others on bail the day before. FAPA immediately notified several relevant members of Congress of the good news, thanking them for their perseverance in paying close attention to human rights issues in Taiwan and helping these political prisoners get out of prison early.
On November 15, 1984, FAPA went to New York to visit Bishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner. The two sides exchanged views on the current situation in Taiwan and South Africa. “If South Africa enters the United Nations first, South Africa will support Taiwan’s entry into the United Nations; if Taiwan goes first, please don’t forget to support South Africa in entering,” Bishop Tutu said during the meeting.
It is a pity that, to this day, Taiwan is still excluded from the door of the United Nations.
On February 7, 1985, through FAPA’s persistent advocacy, the House of Representatives held a hearing on the murder of Henry Liu. Chiang Nan (real name Liu Yiliang, English name Henry Liu), a writer who criticized Chiang Ching-kuo by writing “Biography of Chiang Ching-kuo,” was assassinated in California on October 15, 1984. Immediately after the murder, FAPA issued a press release stating that Lin Yi-Hsiung’s family was almost wiped out in the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, and the Henry Liu case in the United States again demonstrated the Kuomintang totalitarian government’s disdain for human rights. Henry Liu’s widow contacted FAPA several times and was invited to testify at the hearing. The same day, the House of Representatives proposed a resolution calling on the U.S. government to request the extradition of the suspects in the murder case. The resolution passed by an overwhelming 378-2 votes on April 18.
On April 2, 1985, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution “Supporting Taiwan’s Democracy,” stating that martial law obstructed the progress of Taiwan’s democracy. If peace in Taiwan was to be guaranteed, the political participation of all Taiwan residents was a critical factor.
On May 20, 1985, on the occasion of the thirty-sixth anniversary of martial law, both Senators and Representatives issued a Congressional Record Statement following calling on the Kuomintang to abolish martial law, carry out democratic reforms, and respect human rights.
On June 1, 1985, the entire U.S. Senate passed legislation to “support Taiwan’s democracy” and handed it over to President Ronald Reagan for his signature on August 17. This legislation became U.S. law.
On July 24, 1985, when Chinese President Li Xiannian visited Washington, FAPA ran an advertisement in The Washington Post and held demonstrations in front of the White House.
On September 27, 1985, FAPA met with David Dean, president of the American Institute in Taiwan, and Harry Thayer, director of the American Institute in Taiwan. FAPA hoped that the AIT would continue to pay attention to the political prisoners involved in the Kaohsiung Incident, that were still serving time in prison. FAPA called on the Kuomintang government to release them as soon as possible. FAPA also hoped that AIT would continue to support the development of human rights and democracy in Taiwan. For example, FAPA believed that the AIT should implement the recent Taiwan Democracy legislation signed by President Reagan.
On November 18, 1985, more than a dozen members of the House of Representatives jointly proposed a “Support Taiwan Democracy” resolution similar to that of the Senate.
In the spring of 1986, in order to create a source of FAPA funding to assist the smooth operation of the organization, FAPA’s leadership decided to invest in a suburban hotel in Washington, D.C., so that part of the hotel’s profit could be used to fund the FAPA operations. With the generosity of fellow Taiwanese across the United States, the Howard Johnson Hotel near Washington was purchased after millions of funds had been raised.
FAPA members and fellow residents enthusiastically supported FAPA for the sake of their homeland Taiwan, and now they raised vast sums of money to invest in this hotel in order to help sustain FAPA’s operation, hoping that Taiwan could become a democratic country as soon as possible. The sacrificial spirit of the early fellow supporters who contributed money, effort, and ideas to Taiwan was admirable.
On May 7, 1986, the U.S. House Asian Subcommittee held a hearing on the implementation of the “Taiwan Relations Act” and the political and human rights situation in Taiwan. FAPA President Peng Ming-min was invited to testify. Professor Peng’s more than 20 pages of written testimony explored the implementation of the Taiwan Relations Act, political developments in Taiwan after 1984, freedom of the press, the Hsu Jung-shu case, immigration issues, and more.
On May 20, 1986, Senators Kennedy, Pell, Representatives Solarz, Leach, and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) held a press conference on Taiwan’s 37th anniversary of martial law. Chou Ching-yu and Hsu Jung-Hsu, both family members of the Kaohsiung incident, were warmly welcomed to Washington. Many members of Congress were present and were deeply moved by their selfless contributions to freedom and democracy.
During the day of the press conference, the Senate announced the official establishment of the “Committee for Democracy on Taiwan” in the U.S. Congress, with Senators Kennedy and Pell serving as honorary chairmen and Representatives Solarz and Leach as co-chairs. The purpose of establishing this committee was to assist the people of Taiwan in promoting human rights, freedom, and democracy. FAPA hoped that people from all over the world would join, making Taiwan’s democracy an issue of international concern.
On July 8, 1986, on the occasion of Chiang Kai-shek’s centennial birthday, Rep. Leach wrote to Mr. Chiang Ching-kuo, calling on him to “lift martial law and release political prisoners.” In his letter, Rep. Leach said: “Today’s economic prosperity in Taiwan, as well as the progress of church and society, are the results achieved under Chiang Kai-shek’s rule. It is a pity that civil and political rights are not equal to material achievements. Chiang Kai-shek’s centenary birthday Remembrance Day is an excellent opportunity to unite all sectors of society and achieve political harmony.” On August 28, 1986, Senators Pell, Simon (D-IL), Cranston, and Representative Leech, Solarz, and others jointly signed a letter to Secretary of State George Schultz, expressing serious concern about the continued suppression of freedom of speech by the Taiwan authorities. The letter also expressed hope that the State Department would ask the Taiwan authorities to guarantee freedom of speech, tolerate non-Kuomintang publications, and establish appropriate institutions to ensure press freedom.
On September 28, 1986, Taiwan’s fighters for democracy and human rights officially formed the “Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).” FAPA immediately prompted the “Committee for Democracy on Taiwan” of the U.S. Congress to issue a congratulatory statement, expressing support for the establishment of the DPP across the ocean. The move had a great deterrent effect on the KMT’s original intention to arrest the members of the DPP.
On October 8, 1986, Dante B. Fascell (D-FL), then chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a declaration stating that the Taiwan authorities should be prepared to abolish martial law and were open to communicating with the newly established opposition party about their views on this political process.
1987 – The End of Martial Law and the Beginning of a New Democracy in Taiwan
After the Democratic Progressive Party was established at the end of September 1986, it won a large number of seats in the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly elections in December. At the same time, FAPA stepped up its efforts to urge the U.S. Congress to echo the Taiwanese people’s desire for democracy and continue to pressure the Kuomintang regime. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in mid-June 1987, calling on the Taiwanese government to carry out democratic reforms, guarantee freedom of speech, assembly and association, and hoping to see the lifting of martial law in Taiwan as soon as possible. International news, such as TIME Magazine, paid great attention to the demonstrations and protests of the Taiwanese people calling for democracy.
Seeing that it could no longer stop the pressure at home and abroad, the Kuomintang government announced on July 15, 1987, that it would officially lift the 38-year long martial law, marking a watershed in Taiwan’s political transition from totalitarianism to democracy.
However, lifting martial law did not mean Taiwan’s democratic progress was completed. The deformed product of Taiwan’s political history, the “10,000-Year Parliament” still existed. Martial Law was lifted, but the “National Security Law” that restrained the freedom of Taiwan’s people followed. Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan still had only a few seats elected by the people. Among other fundamental human rights, the people’s right of self-determination still seemed restrained.
To seek continued support from the international community for Taiwan’s democratic reforms and to continue to assist Taiwan’s democratization, FAPA launched the “Run for Democracy on Taiwan” held in New York on October 31, 1987. Starting in front of the Statute of Liberty, more than 1,000 people, including Rep. Solarz, Rep. Torricelli, Trong Chai, Peng Ming-min, Huang Hsin-chieh, Kang Ning-hsiang, Chang Chun-hung, and Fei Hsi-ping attended the event.
Under the guidance of police cars, the torch-bearing long-distance running team arrived at FAPA HQ in Washington 2 days later. The team was greeted by Senators Kennedy and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Reps. Solarz, Ritchie, and Donald Pease (D-OH) on Capitol Hill.
Subsequently, members of the democratic torch bearing team successfully brought the torch from American back to Taiwan. There, member of the Democratic Progressive Party Frank Hsieh took over and started a ten-day long-distance democracy race around the island of Taiwan. Wherever the Torch Team went, under the leadership of the DPP Party staff, it was warmly welcomed by the people. The Torch Team’s political call for full election of national legislators elicited the support of the people. Finally, the long-distance running team of the Torch of Democracy selected November 20, 1987, the 40th anniversary of the day the system of national representatives was formed in China, to arrive in Taipei, bringing the long-distance running activities to a climax and successfully raising the Taiwanese public’s awareness.
1988–1994: Continuing Democratic Reforms, Helping Taiwan to Move Toward the International Community
After the lifting of the law, there occurred a democratic transition in Taiwan. The ban on the opposition parties and newspapers was gradually lifted, and the power of civil society slowly emerged. The focus of FAPA’s work in the United States shifted to assisting Taiwan in accelerating its democratic transition, advocating comprehensive election of legislators, disbanding the National Assembly, having direct presidential elections, and emphasizing the people’s right to self-determination.
To help the U.S. Congress understand the political environment after the lifting of the martial law in Taiwan, FAPA organized a delegation of members of Congress to Taiwan at the end of November 1989 to observe the legislative elections. Led by Congressman Solarz, the group consisted of Edward Feighan (D-OH), Norman Mineta (D-CA), John Porter (R-IL), Donald Lucas (D-CA), and Donald Lukens (R-OH).
Pushing for a referendum
A referendum is one of the basic systems for implementing human rights and public opinion in democratic countries. The substantive manifestation of sovereignty in the people is that all the people can directly participate in various decision-making processes related to major national policies and the people’s well-being through elections and referendums.
In June 1990, a referendum campaign was launched to determine Taiwan’s future. FAPA and the DPP jointly submitted a formal proposal to the United Nations, requesting that a referendum be held in Taiwan in the name of the United Nations on Taiwan’s international status and sovereignty. FAPA felt that referendums are a shortcut to resolving major political disputes, but that they would not be legitimate if the ruling authorities did not approve of the referendum. FAPA launched a multi-front campaign in order to prevent a referendum from being deliberately obstructed by the Kuomintang regime. FAPA spearheaded a movement in Taiwan through people such as Trong Chai hoping to win the people’s approval. FAPA actively sought external assistance to promote the referendum so it could be held in Taiwan as soon as possible.
Abolishing the Overseas Blacklist/Releasing Political Prisoners
While FAPA was fighting for Taiwan’s democracy and freedom in the U.S. Congress, many Taiwanese Americans remained on the “overseas Taiwanese blacklist.” FAPA held a press conference on June 9, 1989, and invited a number of Taiwanese Americans who had been denied visas by the Taiwanese government, such as Lee Ying-yuan, and his wife Laura Huang, to speak at the press conference. Invited members of Congress expressed solidarity during the day’s congressional luncheon. They believed it was unreasonable for overseas Taiwanese to be suppressed because of their political ideas and prohibited from returning to their hometowns.
In the 1990 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report, the Taiwan section covered four human rights cases, including Hsu Hsin-liang, Leo Yi-Shi, Huang Hua, and Li Zongfan. In the Hsu Hsin-liang case, the Kuomintang government used Hsu’s words and deeds in the U.S. as evidence of Kuomintang prosecution because it violated freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. The State Department publicly expressed its concern. FAPA President Kenjohn Wang, DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hung, legislator Yeh Chu-lan, and others issued a statement calling on the KMT government to release political prisoners and accelerate Taiwan’s political reform.
On November 25, 1991, Chairman of the House Asian Subcommittee Solarz introduced Resolution No. 248, demanding that the Kuomintang government immediately abolish the so-called “overseas blacklist.” “The U.S. Congress felt that the Taiwan authorities should allow all Taiwanese living overseas who had devoted their lives to peaceful political reform to return to Taiwan,” the resolution read.
FAPA worked with the “Committee for Democracy on Taiwan” of the U.S. Congress and sent a letter to then President Lee Teng-hui requesting the release of political prisoners and lifting the overseas Taiwanese blacklist. The Committee asked President Lee to resolve the judicial cases of Hsieh Chang-ting and Jiang Gaishi. Immediately after the June 4th Tiananmen incident in 1989, the Senate unanimously passed “Taiwan’s Future” legislation, emphasizing that Taiwan’s future must be resolved peacefully and with the consent of the people of Taiwan.
On May 14, 1992, the House Asian Subcommittee unanimously passed a resolution supporting the abolishment of the overseas Taiwanese blacklist. A week later, President Lee Teng-hui announced the 100th Amendment to the Criminal Law, officially lifting the blacklist.
Pushing for Direct Presidential Elections
When the Kuomintang government nominated its president and vice president, overseas Taiwanese dissidents also actively promoted the direct election of the president and vice president of Taiwan.
Solidarity with the Wild Lily Student Movement
On March 16, 1990, a group of Taiwanese students gathered at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to protest against the National Assembly for expanding its powers to elect the Taiwanese president. The protests of 6,000 to 7,000 students continued until March 22, turning into the most significant wave of student protests in Taiwan’s history: the Wild Lily student movement.
In support of the democratic demands of the students, FAPA invited members of the U.S. Congress to speak on March 21. U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Pell issued a statement on March 26, emphasizing his support for the Taiwanese student movement and hoping that Taiwanese students would not be tyrannically suppressed like the students on Tiananmen Square. The statement also asked the Taiwanese government to take the voices of the Taiwanese students seriously and called for support for the Taiwanese people’s “brave pursuit of freedom and independence from the Kuomintang’s 40 years of stubborn repression.” He also called on the Taiwan authorities to amend the constitution, conduct comprehensive parliamentary elections, and abolish the blacklist of overseas Taiwanese.
Advocating for the Abolition of the National Reunification Council to Accelerate Taiwan’s Democratic Reform
In 2006, the abolition of the National Reunification Council caused a stir in Taiwanese politics. However, as early as 1990, FAPA has already proposed the abolition of the National Reunification Council.
On October 5, 1990, FAPA issued a statement calling for the abolition of the National Reunification Council, arguing that the people should openly discuss issues related to Taiwan’s future and that a referendum should be the basis for making the final decision. To accelerate Taiwan’s democratization, FAPA also proposed to the Kuomintang government that it should abolish unjust imprisonment, set up a non-partisan constitutional advisory group, thoroughly implement the consensus of the National Conference, and carry out constitutional reforms.
The San Francisco Peace Treaty’s 40th anniversary
To inspire the sense of sovereignty of Taiwanese at home and abroad, FAPA organized a series of activities to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (SFPT) with several other organizations in the summer of 1991.
FAPA felt that there is no doubt that Taiwan’s sovereignty belongs to the people of Taiwan. Still, the Kuomintang government always used the “Cairo Declaration” to argue that Taiwan belongs to China and advocated for reunification with China based on this argument. FAPA has always emphasized that the SFPT was the legal basis for the notion that Taiwan’s sovereignty belongs to the people of Taiwan. Additionally, to awaken the Taiwanese people’s sense of sovereignty, FAPA also sought to fight back against the Kuomintang government’s ambition to betray Taiwan and facilitate China’s annexation of Taiwan. All this served the purpose of reminding the international community that the Taiwanese people had the right to decide their own future.
On February 28, 1992, the twentieth anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué, FAPA asked Congress to hold a hearing and mobilized Taiwanese people, scholars, and other neutral U.S. academics to call for the repeal of the Shanghai Communiqué. FAPA also cooperated with Taiwan to place an advertisement in the Washington Post, emphasizing that the Taiwanese people do not identify with China, that the Taiwanese people had the right to decide their own future, and that Taiwan did not want to be excluded from the community of nations.
On August 24, 1992, South Korea established diplomatic relations with China and severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This diplomatic setback revealed that the Kuomintang government’s one-China policy was strangling Taiwan’s international space. FAPA issued a statement urging the abandonment of the One-China policy and adopting a “one Taiwan, one China” policy.
Promoting Taiwan’s Membership in the United Nations
After Taiwan’s expulsion from the United Nations in 1971, Taiwan’s 21 million people had not been represented in the United Nations, and such exclusion marked its 21st year in 1992. FAPA felt that the continued exclusion of the people of Taiwan from the United Nations was unreasonable and against the mission of the United Nations, which claimed to represent global citizens and respect the people’s right of self-determination.
FAPA decided to take the lead in promoting Taiwan’s membership in the United Nations in 1992. FAPA emphasized that Taiwan should use the name “Taiwan” instead of “Republic of China.” The “Republic of China on Taiwan” or “Republic of China (Taiwan)” would both lead to confusion for the international audience. To avoid falling into the quagmire of competing for the right to be represented in the U.N. with the PRC, FAPA felt that Taiwan should apply to become a new member rather than “return” to the United Nations as the “Republic of China.”
In September 1992, at the urging of FAPA, Representative Dennis Hertel (D-MI) and Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) introduced Resolutions 201 and 136 in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, to support Taiwan’s membership in the United Nations. It marked the first time the U.S. Congress publicly expressed support for Taiwan’s entry into the UN.
On September 25, 1992, arranged by friends in the U.S. Congress, FAPA visited the United Nations with the Taiwanese delegation of the Association to Promote a Referendum in Taiwan. In addition to expressing the willingness and determination of the Taiwanese people to join the UN, FAPA also asked the representatives of various UN member states whether the name “Taiwan” or “Republic of China” would be preferable for the country to use if it wished to gain recognition into the United Nations. Representatives of most countries felt that Taiwan was an independent country, and that it was clear that applying for UN membership under the name Taiwan would be preferable, given that the name “Republic of China” could cause confusion between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. When asked about the legitimacy of Taiwanese independence if a referendum were held in Taiwan, most of the interviewed U.N. ambassadors expressed approval and believed that it would be a democratic, reasonable, and feasible way for the Taiwanese people.
The sincere opinions of these ambassadors to the UN greatly encouraged FAPA, which felt that Taiwan should apply to join the UN as a sovereign and independent country.
To further promote Taiwan’s participation in the UN, FAPA designated 1993 as the “UN Year of Action” and launched a series of related activities to support Taiwan’s joining the UN.
On July 15, 1993, FAPA met with John MacDonald, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, and the two sides exchanged strategies on the feasibility of Taiwan joining the United Nations.
FAPA’s promotion of “Taiwan Joining the United Nations” in 1994 was a great success. On July 14, 1994, the House International Organizations Subcommittee and the Asian Subcommittee jointly held a hearing on whether Taiwan should enter the United Nations. Representatives present, such as Reps. Torricelli, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Peter Deutsch (D-FL), and senior member of the foreign affairs committee Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), all spoke in support of FAPA’s Resolution 166 to join the United Nations under the name “Taiwan.”
In his remarks in support of Taiwan’s participation in the U.N. at the end of 1993, Congressman Deutsch creatively called upon the U.S. government to consider dual recognition and establish formal diplomatic relations with China AND Taiwan.
At the time, the Taiwanese government also pushed members of Congress to introduce a resolution similar to FAPA’s, but the KMT Government’s version called for Taiwan to “return” to the UN under the name “Republic of China.” Rep. Gilman said earnestly: “The Taiwanese government must first resolve the issue of sovereignty before it can talk about joining the UN.”
It has now been more than 30 years since Taiwan had contact with the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The question of whether or not Taiwan joins these international organizations is still unresolved. For FAPA, the use of the name “Taiwan” not only correctly reflects Taiwan’s national identity, but is also the most important indicator of the separation of democratic Taiwan from communist China in the international community.
Passport Birthplace Amendment
“Taiwan is not China” has always been the motto of FAPA. Before the founding of FAPA in 1982, there had already been grassroots efforts among Taiwanese Americans to fight for the number of immigration openings independent of China. In the early 1990s, FAPA repeatedly received complaints from many Taiwanese Americans that the U.S. State Department used birthplace “China” in the passports of Taiwanese Americans.
This unreasonable U.S. provision ignored the status quo in the Taiwan Strait disregarding the wishes of Taiwanese Americans to be independently treated instead of being called “Chinese Americans.” It was one of the best examples in which the U.S. government kowtowed to China.
FAPA told lawmakers and the U.S. State Department at the time that Taiwanese Americans only identified with Taiwan, not with China, and they had the right to request a change of place of birth on their passport. According to the One-China policy, as laid down in the U.S. Shanghai Communiqué, the U.S. only “acknowledges” China’s claim over Taiwan. The U.S. did not officially recognize that Taiwan is part of China. The State Department has a “Taiwan Desk” as well as an agency called the “American Institute in Taiwan.” We felt the same logic should be applied to the passports of Taiwanese Americans.
After two years of lobbying the U.S. executive branch and Congress, FAPA successfully revised the U.S. law. Congress formally passed the U.S. Passport Birthplace Amendment on October 25, 1994. It was signed by President Clinton and took effect at the end of 1994. Taiwanese have since proudly written “Taiwan” in the birthplace column of their American passport!
1995-2000: Solidifying Taiwan's security/Witnessing the Peaceful Transfer of Power in Taiwan
Breaking Through the Monopoly of Taiwan’s Electronic Media
Press freedom is one of the critical indicators of freedom in a democracy. Young people in the 21st century are accustomed to hundreds of cable TV stations today. However, it is difficult to imagine the days when there were only three TV stations in Taiwan. To help break the abnormal phenomenon of the dominance of the three state-sponsored TV stations, FAPA actively sought to improve freedom of the press in Taiwan, striving to establish a fourth TV station in Taiwan.
On January 23, 1995, “Voice of Taiwan” anchor Hsu Jung-chi led the “Breakthrough Electronic Media Alliance” to go on a hunger strike in Washington for five days, aiming to appeal to the international community to help reform Taiwan’s twisted electronic media system.
On February 2, 1995, at the request of FAPA, Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-FL) held a hearing on “Freedom of Speech and Electronic Media Monopoly in Taiwan” in Congress. Taiwanese legislator Chang Chun-hung, Hsu Jung-chi, and Mike Fonte testified. Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA), John Porter (R-IL), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Deutsch, and others sent a letter to President Lee Teng-hui condemning the government’s actions to be against freedom of speech and the spirit of democracy. The letter expressed the hope that the Taiwanese authorities could fairly, openly, and impartially review the operational rights of a fourth TV station.
Consolidating Taiwan’s Security/Opposing China’s Military Threat
President Lee Teng-hui visited Cornell University, his alma mater, at the end of May 1995. China then tested missiles off the coast of Taiwan several times in July and August as a response, seeking to intimidate the people of Taiwan. This provocative move seriously affected Taiwan’s security and was met with condemnation from the international community.
FAPA immediately sent a letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher and White House National Security Advisor Lake, calling on the U.S. government not to sit by idly and watch China’s military provocation but that the United States should respond immediately. Lake replied twice on behalf of the U.S. government that the White House would handle it carefully.
On October 23, 1995, under the leadership of Senators Paul Simon (D-IL) and Larry Pressler (R-SD), nearly thirty senators signed a letter to President Clinton to express their grave concern about Taiwan’s security and defense.
On October 24, 1995, Chinese President Jiang Zemin went to the United Nations to deliver a speech. FAPA and major Taiwanese associations in the United States launched large-scale demonstrations to protest against China’s civil and military intimidation against the people of Taiwan. We also tried to remind President Clinton that the people of Taiwan, with their hard-earned democracy and freedom, could not be bullied by other countries.
In the spring of 1996, China tested another round of missiles before Taiwan’s first direct presidential elections in an attempt to prevent the Taiwanese people from practicing democracy with their votes. FAPA’s primary focus in 1996 was to promote Taiwan’s security, seek the condemnation of China’s military ambitions from all walks of life in the United States, and call on the international community to support the security of the Taiwanese people.
Members of Congress, such as Sherrod Brown and Robert Torricelli, issued statements and speeches. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), through the lobbying of FAPA, contacted Secretary of State Christopher and personally expressed his opinion to the U.S. State Department. He was concerned about peace in the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan’s security. As many as 80 Senators and Representatives signed a letter to President Clinton, asking him to strongly condemn China and deliver Taiwan’s defensive weapons as soon as possible.
At the same time, FAPA worked with Congress proposing the “Taiwan Security Resolution” by working closely with Chairman Ben Gilman (R-NY) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to get it passed smoothly through the Senate and the House. At the request of FAPA, Congressman Gilman sent a letter to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, expressing that he and the U.S. Congress firmly oppose China’s military invasion of Taiwan. They warned that such a move would inevitably lead to economic sanctions from countries around the world, and the United States could also be involved in this military dispute.
The Taiwan Security Resolution unanimously passed the Senate and the House on March 21, 1996, and March 19, 1996, respectively.
Call on the U.S. Government to Abandon the “One China Policy”
The “One China Policy” of the United States took shape at the height of the Cold War in 1972. At that time, the United States had to win over China in order to help the U.S. against Russia. But the U.S. did not want to betray its Cold War comrade-in-arms, Chiang Kai-shek. Thus, this “One China Policy” came to be. Kissinger and his fellow foreign policy elites disregarded Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorship and its harm to the Taiwanese people. They also ignored how the claim “Taiwan is part of China” never won the approval of the residents of Taiwan. The “One China Policy” was abruptly imposed on the country, and it stifled any chance for Taiwan to expand its international diplomacy in the future.
Following Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in March 1996, Taiwan gradually became a sovereign and independent democracy. The Soviet Union had collapsed as well. So, with this in mind, FAPA began to actively advocate for a “one Taiwan, one China policy” in the U.S. Congress because this would reflect the current situation across the Taiwan Strait and affirmed the progress of Taiwan’s democracy.
For FAPA, another potential danger of the “one China policy” was closely related to U.S. interests. The United States had long stationed troops in the Taiwan Strait and East Asia. This way the United States sought to safeguard its strategic security interests. FAPA felt that the U.S. should have a policy that was clear and consistent with the current realities on the ground, rather than adopting a policy that is vague and inconsistent with the international status quo.
FAPA held a Congressional luncheon on April 25, 1996, calling upon all Taiwan supporters in the United States to abolish the “One China Policy” and replace it with a “One Taiwan, One China Policy.” The luncheon attracted hundreds of people, including more than a dozen members of Congress, including Representatives Brown, Torricelli, and Senator Lieberman. Rep. Brown then issued a statement stating that with the end of the Cold War and the recent threat posed by China to Taiwan’s security, the United States should recognize that the “one China policy” is unrealistic, outdated, and completely ignored the rights of Taiwan’s people.
President Lee Teng-hui proposed the cross-Strait “special state-to-state relations” in July 1999, breaking the long-standing adherence to the One China mentality. FAPA immediately took action following this development. Congressman Brown proposed a “one Taiwan, one China” resolution in the House on July 29, 1999. The resolution called on the U.S. government to abandon its outdated one China policy and replace it with a “one Taiwan, one China” policy, which would better reflect the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. Congressman Brown also wrote to Secretary of State Madeline Albright twice, calling on her to abandon the vaguely defined U.S. “one China policy” and to not fall into the trap of China’s “one China principle.”
This marked the first time the U.S. Congress adopted a resolution to support the abolition of the “One China Policy,” which is of great significance.
Say Yes to Taiwan
Ever Since Hong Kong’s sovereignty was officially transferred to China in 1997, the international community began speculating about the future of Taiwan. To promote Taiwan as a sovereign country, unlike Hong Kong, FAPA once again emphasized that the future of Taiwan should be determined by the people of Taiwan based on the principle of self-determination. At the request of FAPA, Rep. Deutsch and Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced a resolution in the House, while Senator Torricelli introduced a similar resolution in the Senate. Both resolutions stated that the handover of Hong Kong to China had no impact on Taiwan’s sovereignty because Taiwan was already a free, sovereign, and independent state. Further, they also emphasized that Taiwan’s future should be decided based on the principle of self-determination in a democratic and peaceful manner—as listed in the United Nations Charter. More than 40 members signed the House resolution in just a few months. Representative Deutsch, the resolution’s sponsor, even cited a Washington Post Op-Ed to convince his colleagues. The Washington Post Op-ed stated that Taiwan’s future, whether it would be unification, confederation, independence, or any other option, should solely be decided by the people of Taiwan.
On June 28, 1997, when Hong Kong’s sovereignty was about to be handed over to China, the “Say No to China, 628 Anti-Chinese annexation” parade was held all over the country at the same time. FAPA specifically assisted former Congressman Solarz, who was invited to participate in the historic march, in holding a press conference in Washington as he departed for Taiwan. Congressman Solarz firmly expressed that the world’s democratic allies should take action to support Taiwan’s democracy and that Taiwan’s dramatic transition from a dictatorship to democracy should receive international support. Representative Brown also issued a written statement, saying that although he was unable to attend the event in person, his distant blessing still represented his firm support for the Taiwanese people.
To further demonstrate the U.S. Congress’ deep concern for Taiwan’s security, the House introduced the “US-Taiwan Joint Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Cooperation” bill on November 6, 1997. The bill emphasized that it was in the interest of the United States to include Taiwan in the ballistic missile defense system. Furthermore, once the Taiwanese government put forward its demand, the United States must, according to its assessment and consideration, under the pretext of protecting Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and surrounding islands, transfer the appropriate defensive weapons and technologies. The bill also explicitly mentioned that the handover of Hong Kong to China would not change the future of Taiwan. The future of Taiwan must still be determined through democratic processes. The bill also called on the Clinton administration to make clear to the Chinese government that the American people’s commitment to Taiwan’s security and democracy was unshakable. There was a high expectation that the Taiwan Strait issue could be resolved peacefully. The bill passed by an overwhelming majority that very day.
WHO for Taiwan Campaign Kicks Off in the U.S. Congress
Since 1997, FAPA had been taking the lead in cultivating support from the U.S. Congress and from mainstream American society for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization. So, FAPA launched a multi-front campaign to promote Taiwan joining the WHO in 1998.
FAPA first urged Brown, Chabot, and other members of Congress to jointly propose a resolution that supports Taiwan’s participation in the WHO in February 1998. Congressman Brown also issued a Congressional statement calling on his colleagues in the House of Representatives to recognize the urgency and the legitimacy of Taiwan joining the WHO.
At the same time, FAPA adopted a multi-pronged approach. In January 1998, we sent a letter to then WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland, hoping that she could acknowledge that Taiwan had been inappropriately excluded from the organization. FAPA also published articles in major American news outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Times, to promote the necessity and the legitimacy of Taiwan’s participation in the WHO.
With the endorsement and support of Chairman Gilman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congress first introduced a resolution on Taiwan’s participation in the WHO, which passed unanimously with 418 to 0 votes. One month after FAPA sent a letter to then Secretary of HHS Donna Shalala, Congressman Brown led more than 50 members of Congress, at the request of FAPA, to jointly sign a letter to the U.S. Secretary. The letter urged Secretary Shalala to speak for Taiwan when she would attend the WHO annual meeting in Geneva in May.
In 1999, FAPA stepped up its campaign to make the congressional resolution passed in 1998 a binding bill. FAPA proposed to Congressman Brown and other Members that they should link the WHO resolution concerning Taiwan’s WHO inclusion to President Clinton’s 1994 commitment to assist Taiwan’s inclusion in other international organizations as laid down in that year’s Taiwan Policy Review. FAPA’s move mainly focused on reducing the harm of Clinton’s “three-no” policy. The 1999 Act also established a precedent among members of Congress to requiring the Secretary of State to submit a written report about assisting Taiwan in joining the WHO. Such a requirement has become the standard norm. Department of State now must submit relevant yearly reports to Congress.
With FAPA’s spirited grassroots campaign, the Senate and House passed the bill without objection in 1999, which was signed into law by President Clinton. Supporting Taiwan’s participation in the WHO had officially become the foreign policy of the United States.
To further assist Taiwan’s arduous journey to join the WHO, Congressman Brown went to the WHO annual meeting in Geneva in 1999 to meet with the Secretary-General of the WHO and the U.S. delegation. He traveled to Geneva as a lobbyist for Taiwan in order to cultivate support for Taiwan from the international community.
Protesting President Clinton’s Three Noes Policy
At the end of June 1998, President Clinton outlined his “Three Noes Policy” while visiting Shanghai. Congress, which had long been a firm supporter of Taiwan, immediately slammed Clinton’s inappropriate remarks with tangible actions. The Senate first passed a resolution with no objection, 92 to 0, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. The House of Representatives then passed a similar resolution, 390 to 1, to strengthen the congressional support for Taiwanese people to practice their right to self-determination and the inclusion of Taiwan in international organizations.
FAPA also mobilized members of Congress to protest against President Clinton by letter or in person that his remarks in Shanghai seriously hurt the U.S. commitment to Taiwan. Congressman Linda Smith (R-WA) said President Clinton’s speech betrayed 22 million Taiwanese living in a democratic society. She also said that the future of Taiwan should be hampered by neither President Clinton nor by Beijing. Taiwan’s future should be decided by the Taiwanese people only, and it was the exclusive right of the Taiwanese government and the people only to make any decision concerning the future of Taiwan.
Taiwan Security Enhancement Act Passed in the House
With the continued expansion and modernization of the Chinese military in the 1990s, the U.S. Congress and the Department of Defense also began to treat China’s military threat and the United States’ strategic interests in East Asia more seriously. The military balance in the Taiwan Strait, which started to shift towards China’s favor, had been extensively discussed by U.S. policymakers. However, since the U.S. government always took the risks associated with deteriorating U.S.-China relations into consideration, there had since been many restrictions that the government itself imposed upon any form of U.S.-Taiwan military cooperation. So the Taiwanese military often struggled with meeting the necessity for modernization in its hardware equipment, new technological development, and personnel training. There was no regular communication channel between the military and high-level officials of the U.S. and Taiwan. If a conflict ever occurred in the Taiwan Strait, it would be difficult for the U.S. and Taiwan militaries to jointly stop China’s military operations.
As a result, Jesse Helms (R-NC), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Torricelli jointly proposed the “Taiwan Security Enhancement Act” on March 24, 1999. In the House of Representatives, a similar resolution was subsequently proposed by Republican whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Rep. Deutch with twelve other House members on May 18, 1999.
The “Taiwan Security Enhancement Act” focused on the U.S. Taiwan exchange of hardware weapons, equipment, and software technology. In addition to stating that the United States should sell Taiwan’s submarines, anti-submarine equipment, and other high-tech defense weapons, this bill mainly emphasized enhancing military exchanges and dialogue between Taiwan and the United States. The bill also urged further U.S. assistance in training Taiwanese officers while requiring the U.S. president to submit an annual report on arms sales to Taiwan. Other provisions included requiring the U.S. Secretary of Defense to put forward different plans concerning Taiwan-U.S. military training and exchange, the security status of the Taiwan Strait, and emergency response measures in the case of a military crisis. Lastly, the bill required the Department of Defense to establish a temporary direct communication channel between Taiwan and the U.S. military that was intended to provide the U.S. military with a means of coordinating military cooperation with Taiwan in case of an emergency. The bill also touched on the right of the people of Taiwan to self-determination.
The “Taiwan Security Enhancement Act” was the most important U.S. bill on Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act was enacted in 1979. If successfully passed, Taiwan-US relations would be substantially improved in an all-around manner.
The “Taiwan Security Enhancement Act” was finally passed in the House of Representatives on February 1, 2000, by a 341-70 vote.
Taiwanese American Heritage Week
The “Asia Pacific Heritage Month” is celebrated every May in the U.S. Ethnic groups from the Asia-Pacific region hold various activities to celebrate the traditional culture of the Asian-Pacific ethnic group and their contributions to American society. To ensure that the American public would have a better understanding of Taiwanese Americans, FAPA had designated the week of Mother’s Day in May as “Taiwanese American Heritage Week” since 1999 with a proclamation by President Clinton. Nowadays, “Taiwanese American Heritage Week” is annually celebrated around the U.S. It is the best occasion for Taiwanese people to introduce Taiwan’s culture, geography, and customs to the mainstream U.S. public. Many members of Congress proposed resolutions, issued statements, or even visit celebration venues in person to congratulate and recognize the outstanding contributions of Taiwanese Americans to American society.
Witnessing the Peaceful Transfer of Power in Taiwan and Supporting the Elected President’s Visit to the U.S.
In 2000, the Taiwanese people ended 50 years of the Kuomintang’s one-party rule through the power of our votes. It marked the first peaceful transfer of power in Taiwan. Taiwan’s democracy reached a new milestone.
To assist Taiwan’s second direct presidential election without China’s interference and intervention, under the suggestion of FAPA, Congressman Deutsch jointly proposed a resolution on March 9, 2000, with 33 colleagues, stating that the Taiwanese people had the right to elect their presidents without Chinese interference.
At the invitation of FAPA, several members of Congress expressed their support for the Taiwanese people directly through video recordings, stating that the U.S. government should continue to work with the Taiwanese people no matter who is their elected president. They also said that the Taiwanese people should not be intimidated by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji.
After the presidential election results were announced on March 18, 2000, more than 40 senators and Representatives immediately sent their congratulations to newly elected President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien.
When President Chen Shui-bian tried to make his first transit through the U.S in August 2000, because of China’s obstruction, the U.S. government succumbed to China’s pressure. The U.S. government did not give President Chen the courtesy of crossing the border, which caused an intense backlash in the U.S. Congress. Representative Sam Gejdenson (D-CT) led nearly 50 other members of Congress to introduce a resolution to criticize China’s interference in the internal affairs of the United States. In the resolution, they expressed their support for the idea that Taiwan’s democratically elected leaders should be free to visit the United States without restrictions. Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) proposed a similar resolution in the Senate with several colleagues protesting against the Clinton administration’s move to kowtow to China.
Promoting visits by high-level Taiwanese officials, including the President and Vice President, to the United States since became one of FAPA’s priorities.
2001-2008: Enhancing U.S.-Taiwan Relations/Assist Taiwan in Moving Towards Normalization
FAPA Turns 20
”Promoting Taiwan’s democracy, safeguarding Taiwan’s security, and maintaining Taiwan’s dignity” was the central axis of FAPA’s 20th anniversary celebration. Since this was the first time FAPA had returned to Taiwan to hold a full range of activities, President Chen Shui-bian honored us by speaking at the FAPA banquet. He even announced a birthday gift for FAPA, saying that he would add the word “Taiwan” in English to the Republic of China passports. He brought the atmosphere to a climax. President Chen’s announcement of adding the word “Taiwan” to the ROC passport rewarded the long-time efforts made by FAPA to change the name “ROC” to “Taiwan” in the U.S., which also gave us a spiritual boost.
Establishing the Senate and House Taiwan Caucus
On April 9, 2002, the House established the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, a critical development in Taiwan-U.S. relations. On the day of its establishment, the Legislative Yuan sent a bipartisan delegation to Washington D.C. to participate in the festivities. The deep U.S.-Taiwan friendship and the prospect for future cooperation seemed extremely promising.
It was more difficult to establish a Senate Taiwan Caucus. Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) once said that “Every senator IS their own caucus.” But the Senate Taiwan Caucus was established in September 2003; a truly remarkable event. It had 11 founding members, including many high-profile members, such as Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-SD.)
The establishment of the House and Senate Taiwan Caucuses has since enabled Taiwan-related issues to have a stable collective voice in the U.S. Congress. Through these caucuses, FAPA can now more effectively and systematically promote Taiwan-related issues and cultivate the support of the U.S. Congress for Taiwan. The Taiwan Caucuses can also serve as a communication channel to assist Taiwan and the executive branch of the United States in better enhancing the bilateral relations between the Taiwanese government and the U.S. government.
Assisting Taiwan in Rectifying Its Name in the International Community
To assist Taiwan in rectifying its name in the international community, we must first start with Taiwan itself. The name currently used by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative office in the U.S. is the wordy Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO). FAPA believes that the Taiwanese government should use the name Taiwan Representative Office (TRO), better representing Taiwan’s national character in a dignified manner.
In addition to helping the Taiwanese Association of America (TAAUSA) in launching a joint petition to TECRO and President Chen Shui-bian about the TECRO name change, at the request of FAPA, the first ever U.S. Representative born in Taiwan, David Wu (D-OR), also sent a petition letter concerning this matter to President Chen on April 22, 2002. Furthermore, Dennis Moore (D-KS) on January 9, 2003, the four co-chairs of the House Taiwan Caucus on September 3, 2003, Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), and other members of the House all sent their petition letters to President Chen to express their support of changing TECRO’s name to TRO. These lawmakers stated in their letter that rectifying TECRO’s name was an important step, for it would more clearly show that Taiwan’s representative office represented the entirety of Taiwan and more correctly reflect the unique characteristics of the Taiwanese government.
In addition, many international companies and even U.S. government agencies still often wrongly state that Taiwan is part of China, and FAPA has sent letters to them requesting corrections. It is not easy to assist Taiwan in rectifying its name in the international community. In many cases, it usually takes a long time and patience to exchange letters with these multinational companies to explain the status quo of Taiwan’s sovereignty and independence.
FAPA sent a letter to AMTRAK in July 2005, requesting AMTRAK to change their referring to Taiwan as a province of China on its website. AMTRAK responded to FAPA and immediately removed the “province of China” wording from their website.
FAPA then sent a letter to the United States Postal Service (USPS) in April 2006, asking it to correct its website which had the same mistake, referring to Taiwan as a province of China. FAPA received a reply from the USPS, saying that they had adopted FAPA’s suggestion to remove the offending text from their website.
In 2006, FAPA also corrected The New York Times, International Federation of Elections Studies, and JPMorgan Investments, among others. Apple and Costco later followed suit.
Consolidate Taiwan’s Security, Call on the EU to Maintain its Arms Embargo on China
After the Tiananmen Square Incident of June 4, 1989, the European Union began to impose restrictions on China’s arms imports to express a serious protest against the Chinese government’s disregard for human rights. This decade-long ban has been a thorn in China’s eyes. Still, with China’s growing economic prowess, some European countries began to call for the lifting of this arms embargo to enter the lucrative Chinese arms market.
Whether the EU lifted the arms embargo or not was critical to the safety of Taiwan’s 23 million people. More so when almost no country in the international community was willing to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan and when the military and security balance in the Taiwan Strait had become increasingly unbalanced and shifted toward China’s favor. China would expand its arming itself if the EU would lift the embargo, which would undoubtedly affect the stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. government and opposition all held the same position on this issue and opposed lifting the European arms embargo on China. On October 7, 2004, Representative Steve Chabot led ten members to jointly propose Resolution No. 512. Twenty-five members of Congress, under Chabot’s leadership, sent a signed letter to then EU President Dutchman Jan Peter Balkenende on November 30, 2004, calling on the EU not to lift the arms embargo on China.
Improve Taiwan’s Security/Assist the U.S. Congress in Calling on Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan to Pass an Arms Purchase Bill
After President George W. Bush approved the largest military sales of advanced defensive weapons to Taiwan in 2001, the corresponding arms purchase bill in Taiwan was blocked by the KMT opposition party in the Legislative Yuan and put on hold. The delay in U.S. arms purchases from Taiwan caused Taiwan-U.S. relations to sink to a bottom low and shook the confidence of American friends who were optimistic about Taiwan’s self-defense determination. FAPA assisted 33 U.S. members of Congress in jointly sending a letter to then Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan on May 26, 2005, hoping that he could speed up the passage of the arms purchase budget in the Legislative Yuan. The four co-chairs of the Taiwan Caucus also sent a letter in August of the same year to KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, hoping that he would show the courage to urge the Legislative Yuan to pass the stalled arms purchase.
Defend Taiwan’s Sovereignty, Protest Secretary Powell’s Gaffe
At the end of October 2004, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visited China. In an interview, Powell made several remarks about Taiwan not being a sovereign state and the inevitability of peaceful reunification. FAPA led several prominent overseas Taiwanese associations in a major campaign to protest against Powell’s comment. We later advertised our position in the Washington Times on October 29. The advertisement refuted Powell’s remarks one by one and presented the reality of Taiwan being a sovereign and independent democratic country.
FAPA also sent a letter to Secretary Powell on October 30, expressing the most serious protests by Taiwanese Americans to the State Department and the U.S. executive branch. A month later, FAPA received a letter from Randy Schriver, then Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, on behalf of Powell. The letter reiterated the consistent policy and commitment of the U.S. government toward Taiwan. Interestingly, the letter also mentioned that the U.S. is committed to defending Taiwan under President Reagan’s “Six Assurances” and that the United States would not change its understanding of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Supporting Taiwan’s First Referendum in 2004
The idea of a “referendum,” under the leadership of FAPA’s founding president Trong Chai became FAPA’s core value as early as the late 1980s and had been a major issue for consolidating Taiwan’s democratic institutions. To support Taiwan’s first referendum held in March 2004, FAPA mobilized several members of Congress to issue written statements or joint letters to praise Taiwan’s historical pioneering work in deepening the country’s democracy.
Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) was the first to express his support in the Congressional Record of June 26, 2003, and subsequently introduced a resolution to support Taiwan’s first referendum. Senate Taiwan Caucus Co-Chair George Allen (R-VA) and his colleague Jon Kyl (R-AZ) sent a letter to President Bush on October 23, 2003, calling on him to support the Taiwanese people’s decision to hold a referendum. In their letter, they stated that the United States has always been at the forefront of the world’s movement for freedom and democracy. Under this premise, we cannot have a double standard and prevent the people of Taiwan from holding a referendum.
At the beginning of 2004, over a dozen Senators and Representatives issued Congressional statements firmly supporting the people of Taiwan in exercising their right to a referendum vote.
On March 17, 2004, when Taiwan held its presidential elections and its first referendum, 36 members of the House of Representatives, led by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), sent an open letter to the people of Taiwan, urging them to participate enthusiastically in Taiwan’s first referendum. The letter also stated that the people of Taiwan should not be intimidated by other countries in exercising their right to vote. FAPA subsequently published this open letter in full-page format on major Taiwanese print media such as the China Times and Liberty Times.
Protest China’s Anti-Secession Law
After the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress passed its “Anti-Secession Law” at the end of December 2004, which led to the legalization and rationalization of China’s military invasion of Taiwan, the future of Taiwan and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait became more uncertain than ever. Taiwan and the rest of the international community strongly criticized this threatening proclamation.
Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) took the lead in sending a letter to the U.S. State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs to express their dissatisfaction with the State Department’s failure to properly condemn China. Several written congressional statements were issued, strongly condemning China’s provocative actions to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In the House of Representatives, numerous resolutions were passed criticizing China’s actions.
The four co-chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, as well as the chairs and vice-chairs of the Senate and House foreign affairs committees, sent letters to the Chinese leadership to express their serious concern and how this move would pose a threat to Taiwan’s security. China’s “Anti-Secession Law” made the U.S. Congress and executive branch more certain about opposing the E.U.’s plan to lift the arms embargo against China. So the House quickly passed a resolution calling on the E.U. to maintain the arms embargo on China.
Accelerating the Promotion of High-level Visits by Taiwanese officials to the United States
Promoting visits by Taiwan’s high-level officials to the U.S. has been one of the priorities of FAPA’s annual work since 2000, and this issue achieved a breakthrough in June 2006.
On the afternoon of June 28, 2006, the House unanimously passed a resolution jointly proposed by Reps. Tancredo, Andrews, Chabot, and Brown. The resolution prohibited the U.S. government from using any public funds to restrict the mutual exchange of high-level officials between Taiwan and the United States.
Frank Wolf (R-VA), a senior House member and chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Subcommittee, openly stated that these unreasonable restrictions should be applied to the Chinese government, not to Taiwan officials.
This marked the first time the U.S. Congress sought to lift these unreasonable restrictions through legal means and by restricting the funding of appropriation bills regarding the existing restrictions on exchanges between Taiwan and the United States.
The adoption of this clause attracted international attention. Reuters claimed that this move by the U.S. Congress was a significant turning point in Taiwan-US diplomatic relations.
Assisting Former President Lee on His Historical Visit to Washington D.C.
Without former President Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996 would not have occurred. Without Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996, there would not have been the first peaceful transfer of power in 2000. Without the first peaceful transfer of power in 2000, Taiwan would not be the democratic society we see today. Taiwan was now a model democracy that other nations admire. Without former President Lee, today’s call for rectifying Taiwan’s name and constitution would not have made it into mainstream society.
Former President Lee, the promoter of Taiwan’s democratization and the leader of the local Taiwanese identity, finally came to Washington, the capital of the United States, on October 17, 2005, after a long absence from public eyes. FAPA was honored to having been asked to arrange his visit in Washington with multiple exciting important events.
The highlight of former President Lee’s historic visit to Washington was a welcome reception on Capitol Hill on October 19 and a press conference at the National Press Club on October 20. Former President Lee stepped onto Capitol Hill as the father of Taiwan’s democracy and was greeted heroically by members of the U.S. Congress. More than two dozen senators and Representatives paid their respects to former President Lee in person. In his speech, Taiwan Caucus Co-Chairman Rohrabacher stated that President Lee was his hero. Representative Tancredo presented President Lee with an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.
The international press conference on October 20 was the last event of President Lee in Washington. Nearly 200 people from various countries attended the press conference for interviews, breaking the record that the host of the press conference claimed he had ever seen.
When China rapidly expanded its military, economic and diplomatic power and became a world power, former President Lee firmly conveyed the voice of Taiwan to the international community and sought the international community’s support for Taiwan’s freedom and democracy. He was certainly the best spokesperson for Taiwan – ever.
Challenging the One China Policy
On September 16, 2003, FAPA held a seminar in partnership with The Heritage Foundation. FAPA assisted in inviting Congressman Andrews and Chabot to discuss America’s One-China policy from a congressional perspective. Congressman Andrews stated that the future of Taiwan was the future of the U.S. The U.S. had never recognized that China had the right to determine the sovereignty of Taiwan. If the Taiwanese people would choose independence through a referendum, “we should accept such a result.” Congressman Chabot, co-chair of the Taiwan Caucus, stated that the One China policy was an untrue mystery. The United States should not oppose Taiwan’s independence. After all, the decision-making power of Taiwan’s sovereignty is neither in Beijing nor in Taipei, but in the hands of the Taiwanese people.
On February 26, 2004, FAPA again worked with the Heritage Foundation holding the “Rethinking One China” workshop. FAPA invited Reps. Deutsch, Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA), Andrews, and Rohrabacher. They all agreed that Nixon’s One China policy had been used to court China’s favor and no longer applied to the status of the Taiwan Strait in the 21st century.
It was the first time that a mainstream American think tank had held an individual seminar on challenging the one China policy. This event opened up a debate in the United States on the policy that had dominated the Taiwan-China-US triangular relationship for the past three decades. FAPA hoped that discussing this issue in academia would enhance the public’s understanding of Taiwan’s position and subsequently win their approval.
On September 27, 2005, FAPA cooperated with the Heritage Foundation for the third time to hold an academic seminar on “Reshaping the Taiwan Strait Policy.” Representative Chabot, co-chair of the House Taiwan Caucus, was invited as the keynote speaker.
At the end of October 2006, FAPA led several well-known American scholars to Europe, calling on European academics and politicians to abandon the One China policy. The FAPA delegation visited five important European political and economic centers, including Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Brussels, Belgium, Paris, France, Berlin, Germany, and London, England. Through meetings with European scholars, members of parliamentarians, and other officials, we sought their support for Taiwan’s democratic society in the face of Chinese aggression. Confronting the harm of the One China policy to Taiwan’s democratic development and international participation, we hoped that the Europeans would abolish the one-China policy as soon as possible.
FAPA's Network Extends Globally
FAPA’s successful grassroots advocacy work in the U.S. had spurred the passions of Taiwanese living in other countries as well. They now tried to enhance the support for Taiwan in the international community. FAPA United Kingdom, FAPA Canada, FAPA Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay all officially began operations. Currently, FAPA is actively cultivating support for Taiwan in Japan, Europe, and other countries in Asia and Latin America. It is our hope that in the future, FAPA’s network will officially extend to more corners of the world!
Defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, Safeguard Taiwan’s Democracy
The March 2008 presidential election marked the second peaceful transfer of power in Taiwan’s political history. The Democratic Progressive Party candidate lost by more than 2 million votes. Coupled with the loss of the legislative election, the Chinese Kuomintang held both the executive branch and the legislature, with more than half of the seats. The Kuomintang reached a state of “complete dominance,” and Taiwan’s political situation fell into “complete darkness.” Most FAPA members bought flight tickets back to Taiwan and volunteered for electoral activities and voting at the time. However, everyone returned to the United States in despair. As a grassroots membership organization of Taiwanese Americans, FAPA understood the feelings of its members. Some said they had been for a whole month after returning from Taiwan. People felt heavy, and it was hard to return. Some said that they wouldn’t watch “big news” anymore, and others said they would never care about Taiwan’s politics again.
For FAPA, the situation was, of course, marked a significant setback. The number of paying members and donations in 2008 was much lower than before. In addition to the huge financial pressure and low membership morale, it was also necessary to respond to members of Congress and other friends on Capitol Hill. Concerned and puzzled, we explained why the DPP was defeated, whether there was a gap between Taiwanese people’s sentiments and Taiwanese Americans’ perceptions, and the more critical issue was how FAPA could continue to protect Taiwan’s hard-won democracy in the United States.
During these years, our essential work can be described as follows:
Consolidate Taiwan’s Democracy, Safeguard National Security, and Protect Human Rights
In December 2008, Chinese representative Chen Yunlin visited Taiwan. The Ma Ying-jeou administration severely restricted Taiwanese people’s freedom of assembly, association, and speech at the time. The government’s disregard for human rights was evident, and there were many incidents in which police attacked the protesting crowd. Many international organizations, such as Freedom House, International Human Rights Alliance, Reporters Without Borders, and Amnesty International voiced their concerns about the regression of civil liberties and human rights in Taiwan. Thirteen members of the House sent a letter to President Bush, echoing the demands of mainstream human rights organizations and expressing concern about Taiwan. The letter pointed out that harmonious relations between Taiwan and China would contribute to regional stability in the Taiwan Strait, but this progress should never come at the expense of the civil liberties and human rights of the people of Taiwan.
In March-April 2009, FAPA launched the “”Taiwan Relations Act’ is the cornerstone of Taiwan-US relations” campaign in Congress to promote the normalization of U.S.-Taiwan Relations. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives commended the importance of the Taiwan Relations Act and cited the word “cornerstone” in their statements. Unexpectedly, the People’s Republic of China likely interfered and pressured the members of Congress to delete the word “cornerstone” in an attempt to damage Taiwan-U.S. relations and weaken the importance of the “Taiwan Relations Act.” In order to strengthen Taiwan-US relations and protect Taiwan’s rights and national interests, FAPA did not succumb to China’s unreasonable demands. Three days later, the Foreign Affairs Committee formally notified FAPA that they had decided to pass the original version, Resolution 55, to make it clear that the U.S. Congress would reaffirm its commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act as the cornerstone of U.S.-Taiwan relations.
In July 2009, when FAPA defended Taiwan-U.S. relations in the U.S. against China, we also spoke for Taiwanese Americans and monitored the inappropriate policies of the Ma Ying-jeou administration, most of which were suspect of “selling” Taiwan out to China. We wrote to the Washington Times and refuted some of the claims made in an exclusive interview with Ma’s then Mainland Affairs Council chief, Lai Shin-yuan. FAPA said that although most people in Taiwan seem to support the Kuomintang government’s friendly policy towards China, many people are more worried about Ma’s potential to sacrifice Taiwan’s sovereignty, freedom, democracy, and human rights. FAPA emphasized that the Taiwanese people’s support for maintaining the status quo in the polls was influenced by the deployment of Chinese missiles and intimidation by force. Without these threats, the Taiwanese people would support Taiwan as a full and equal member of the international community.
In June 2009, FAPA requested New Jersey Representative Robert Andrews to send President Obama a letter expressing concern that the Ma administration would interfere with the independent operation of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy by placing his own people into the organization. Such action would distort the foundation’s transcendent impartiality in promoting global democracy and human rights.
FAPA has always spared no effort to promote any issues concerning Taiwan’s security and arms sales. All resolutions, officially recorded speeches, or letters from Congress were drafted and launched by FAPA. In 2010, a letter to President Obama was circulating in the House of Representatives for signatures. It urged the Obama administration to sell more defensive weapons to Taiwan, including F-16 fighter jets. When TECRO realized that FAPA had drafted the letter, TECRO staffers contacted us and expressed their willingness to ask more members of Congress to sign the letter. It was a rare occurrence for TECRO to take the initiative to work with us on a letter intended for the White House. At that time, FAPA thought it was a good idea to collaborate with TECRO as long as what we were doing benefited Taiwan. In the end, more than one-third of all Representatives signed the letter urging the White House that U.S. policy must be consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act. Hence, the U.S. government must honor its commitment to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons to ensure cross-Strait security.
Continue to Monitor Taiwan’s Status Quo
Since 2008, FAPA has been continuously observing and taking timely actions on different occasions in which the Kuomintang government sought to erode Taiwan’s democracy. These instances include the Chen Yunlin incident, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy situation, the detention of former President Chen Shui-bian, and the unfair judicial system. Our actions included:
- A joint statement by members of the U.S. Congress
- FAPA coordinated more than a dozen Taiwanese American associations and sent letters to leaders of the United States or Taiwan to express Taiwanese Americans’ concerns about the current situation in Taiwan. For example, in a letter to President Obama on November 12, 2009, we urged him to honor the U.S. commitment to support Taiwan’s democracy, freedom, and human rights even if he was on a trip to China.
- On July 7, 2009, we condemned Taiwan’s judicial injustice that happened under the Ma administration calling on the Taiwan government to immediately terminate the detention of former President Chen Shui-bian;
- On October 4, 2012, FAPA protested the change of name of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council and demanded that the Ma Administration change it to “Overseas Taiwanese Affairs Council.”
In addition to the support from various Taiwanese American Associations, we also cultivated support through our friendship with other allies in the international community. For example, on May 10, 2010, nearly 30 international personalities wrote a joint letter to the President of the Legislative Council, Wang Jin-pyng, to express concern about the ruling party’s attempt to forcibly pass the ECFA provisions. We urged him to seriously reconsider Taiwan’s overall development and how ECFA might impact the future of Taiwan. Since 2008, a total of five open letters from international scholars spoke out about goings on in Taiwan. During this period, the Pan-Blue media in Taiwan became very nervous and criticized the content of these letters.
The U.S. government then enacted its Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for Taiwanese passport holders. In fact, FAPA had already learned from Congress that the rejection rate of Taiwan nationals applying for U.S. visas is very low, which is in line with the VWP regulations. But this is a matter of coordination between countries. In 2007, we suggested to Dr. Joseph Wu, then TECRO ambassador to the United States, that he ask his deputy representative, Dr. David Huang, to take charge of this business. Unfortunately, after the DPP lost power in 2008, such a positive development in U.S.-Taiwan diplomatic relations was delayed for more than four years.
Regarding former President Chen’s situation, FAPA’s position was that we condemned the inability of Taiwan’s judiciary to conduct independent and impartial trials while safeguarding one’s fundamental human rights to medical treatment. In the middle of 2012, we sent a letter to President Obama, the State Department, the new AIT Director, and the Tom Lantos Human Right Commission. FAPA helped organize an independent American medical team to visit Taiwan, hoping former president Chen Shui-bian could be released on medical parole.
After 2008, another job of FAPA was to assist the communication between Taiwan’s pan-green politicians and Washington D.C. so that people in Washington could hear the voices of those from Taiwan’s opposition party, which represented Taiwan’s local voices. Such efforts included the visits of former Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien, the Chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union Huang Kun-huei, or even those from the civil society, church-related personnel, and so on. We didn’t want the communication between Taipei and Washington to be controlled by a single political party or a specific person. Multiple channels of communication were necessary.
In 2011, FAPA held a congressional reception in the House of Representatives on behalf of then-DPP Chair Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, attended by more than 20 senators and representatives.
Expand Local Organizations, Enhance Friendship of Members, and Cultivate the Younger Generation
As a non-profit organization that primarily focuses on Taiwanese Americans, FAPA focuses on their rights and interests. As early as 1994, FAPA cooperated with U.S. members of Congress to urge the U.S. State Department to change its erroneous China-only “birthplace” policy. At last, we could have Taiwanese Americans put the name “Taiwan” in the birthplace column of their U.S. passports. We also launched the Taiwanese American Heritage Week every third week of May and received a trade mark for this week. In the 2010 census, which only occurs every ten years, FAPA urged Taiwanese Americans to fill in the name “Taiwan” when answering where they came from so that Taiwanese Americans would have their own federal budget distinct from the funds of other immigrants groups. There were more than 232,000 people who filled in “Taiwanese” in 2010, which is a lot more than 145,000 in 2000. We believe this is the result of the growth of Taiwanese identity and the efforts of FAPA!
FAPA is a member-based grassroots diplomatic organization. We can successfully promote Taiwan-related issues on Capitol Hill, provided that our issues align with the U.S. national interests. More importantly, our success can also be attributed to the works and efforts of our members, who are also U.S. voters. The questions of how we can further strengthen the interaction between headquarters and local chapters, encourage local members to have more contact with other members, or even more generally fight for the rights and interests of the Taiwanese people have always been an integral part of our organization. To this end, FAPA presidents and headquarters staffers, from time to time, try to participate in the activities of various chapters and report about the work and status of the headquarters in Washington. We also hold regional general meetings in several major cities, so that members of neighboring chapters can communicate and share how their chapters are currently doing or ask for different strategies for cultivating the support of younger generations.
In recent years, we have started touring around the country for fundraisers inviting well-known speakers from Taiwan. Members could now have face-to-face interactions with prominent speakers from Taiwan to understand the real thoughts of the Taiwanese people. Additionally, it will also enable us to have a chance to know the needs of the Taiwanese people and Taiwan before we make any decisions or act on their behalf in the United States. This will allow us to avoid falling into any unintentional misunderstandings due to the long time we spent overseas. This kind of speech program has been practiced for many years and has been well received by members, and it has also helped FAPA financially.
To cultivate the support from the second-generation Taiwanese Americans and make them care more about Taiwan or participate in more public affairs, FAPA established the Young Professionals Group (YPG) in 2003. Unfortunately, we abolished the YPG in 2016.
Just as the foreword mentioned, “The original purpose of founding FAPA and the development of the organization, all echoes and is intertwined with Taiwan’s democratic process.” Over the past 30 years, FAPA members have worked hard for Taiwan’s democracy and freedom in the United States. The journey is arduous, progress is slow, and we are sometimes discouraged. However, we never stop, even if we have experienced ups and downs on the road to democracy. It brings us closer to Taiwan as a community and makes us proud to say: “I am a FAPA member working hard for Taiwan!” Having this belief and action has long been our determination. It will allow us to continue to work hard for our ideals and for Taiwan’s democracy and freedom until it is completed.