Status: De facto State in Eastern Asia
Population: 22,974,347 (CIA World Factbook - July 2009 est.)
Area: 35,980 km² (CIA World Factbook 2009)
Language: Mandarin (main language), Minnan (also known as Hoklo or Taiwanese), Hakka and indigenous languages
Religion: Combination of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism (93%), Christianity (4.5%) and other religions (2.2%)
Ethnic Groups: Hoklo (70%), Hakka (14%), Mainland Chinese (14%), Indigenous peoples (14 tribes: Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Pinuyumayan, Rukai, Saisiyat, Sakizaya, Sediq, Thao, Truku, Tsou and Yami) (2%)
UNPO REPRESENTATION: Taiwan Foundation for Democracy
Taiwan is represented at the UNPO by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD). Taiwan is a founding member of the UNPO having joined the organization on 11 February 1991; TFD has served as Taiwan’s representative since 2006.
The island of Taiwan, meaning ‘terrace bay’, lies some 120 kilometers off the southeastern coast of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait, and has an area of 35, 980km². It is surrounded by the East China Sea to the North, the Philippines Sea to the East, and the Luzon Strait to the South.
Taiwan’s population of approximately 23 million includes the island’s first aboriginal inhabitants that comprise 14 recognized Indigenous peoples (2%), mainlanders who emigrated from China after 1949 (14%), and the majority “native Taiwanese” (including both Hoklo and Hakka) who are descendants of Chinese who came to Taiwan during the 17th and 19th centuries (84%).Taiwan, whose official name according to the Constitution is the Republic of China (ROC), is a multiparty democracy seeking full participation in international forums such as the World Health Organization and ultimately membership in the United Nations. Since 1991, the Government of Taiwan has renounced its claim to represent all of China, stating that instead it represents the people of Taiwan. Taiwan’s main concern remains its difficult relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which claims that Taiwan is part of its territory and that it has the “right” to use force against Taiwan whenever it sees fit.
Taiwan is well known around the world for its successes first in economic development, and more recently in democratization. However, as a result of its lack of UN membership and recognition by most major states, coupled with the threat posed by China, it remains in a precarious state in the international arena, which prevents the Taiwanese people from being able to fully enjoy their newfound prosperity and human rights.
Just after the Communist Revolution in China in 1949 and the consequent withdrawal of the Nationalist Party (often referred to by its Chinese name, Kuomintang, or the short form KMT) to Taiwan, Taiwan endured 38 years under a military rule headed by Chiang Kai-shek and his son.
Starting from 1987, Taiwan’s political system began to liberalize and enter a democratization process with the formation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1986 as the first genuine opposition party. Among other issues, the party advanced the right of self-determination for the people of Taiwan, thus resurfacing the issue of the political status of Taiwan, a previously taboo question.
Despite the severe pressure and military threats from the PRC, Taiwanese held their first direct presidential election in 1996, re-electing Lee Teng-hui of the KMT. The DPP received 44% of the votes in the legislative elections of 1997 and the second direct presidential election of 2000 saw the victory of DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian, bringing about the first transfer of executive power away from the KMT.
In 2004, President Chen Shui-bian was re-elected for a second (and last, under the constitutional term limits) presidential term; however later the same year the DPP failed to gain a majority in parliamentary elections.
In recent years, there has been an increased polarization of politics in Taiwan between two main political camps, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its allies (the so-called Pan-Blue Coalition) the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its allies (the so-called Pan-Green Coalition.
In the 2008 presidential elections, Ma Ying-jeou from the KMT was elected with an electoral program based on establishing a ‘diplomatic truce’ with the PRC, beginning with high-level talks on agreements on trade and travel that included the first direct flights from the ROC to the PRC in July 2008.
Despite the progressive normalization of the situation, the PRC’s military buildup across the Taiwan Strait remains a major concern. Since the 1990s, when Taiwan renounced its claim to represent mainland China and decided to pursue its own political identity, the extent and quality of Chinese armaments explicitly deployed for a conflict over Taiwan has only increased. For example, as estimated by the US Annual Report on military expenditures from PRC, 50 more missiles are deployed targeting Taiwan every year, and now there are probably over 1,300 deployed in the region. These forces have been used to intimidate Taiwan notably in 1995 and 1996, when unarmed M-9 ballistic missiles were launched across the Taiwan Strait.
Even if the relationship between Beijing and Taipei is more stable in 2009 than it has been over the past years, it is not clear that this apparent truce will last forever. China has not renounced its “right” to use force to prevent Taiwan’s independence, nor discussed amending its anti-secession law (enacted in 2005 to provide legal justification for the use of force against Taiwan), nor withdrawn any missiles that are currently pointed at Taiwan.
UNPO believes that Taiwan should be allowed to fully participate in the United Nations, as well as all its specialized agencies. Denying Taiwan’s international recognition is preventing Taiwanese people from their right to self-determination and thus constitutes a violation of international law.
A non-violent and democratic solution to all disputes with People’s Republic of China (PRC) must be both countries’ priority; therefore UNPO condemns the permanence and increase of Chinese military presence in the Taiwan Strait as well as the Anti-Secession Law (2005),that purports to grant China the right to use force against any attempt of independence coming from Taiwan.
UNPO commends Taiwan’s government democratization efforts and its work in contributing to a flourishing democratization of the Asia-Pacific region. UNPO also welcomes the country’s attempts to embrace its indigenous peoples and to build a more inclusive and open society.
UNPO MEMBER INTRODUCTION
Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) was initiated in 2002 by the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was formally created in 2003 as an independent, non-profit and non-partisan organization. TFD is governed by fifteen trustees and five supervisors who represent political parties, the government, academics, non-governmental organizations and the business sector. Its current president is Szu-chien Tsu, the Chairman is Jia-Chyuan Su, and the Vice-Chairman is david Tawei Lee.
The TFD is the first national democracy assistance organization in Asia, making grants to non-governmental and non-profit organizations at home and abroad to support projects that promote democracy and human rights. In addition to consolidating Taiwan's democracy and its commitment to human rights, the TFD works to join forces with related organizations around the world, though advocacy projects, research programs, conferences, publications and educational programs.
What are Taiwan’s main human rights concerns?
Taiwan generally enjoys high levels of human rights protection for its own people, and Freedom House, in 2009, has rated Taiwan as one of the most democratic countries in Asia. However, the PRC claims that Taiwan is a part of its territory, and it denies the people of Taiwan their right to self-determination. The PRC has proclaimed a “One China policy” in its relations with Taiwan, which maintains that there is only one China, and that mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are all part of that China. In the Anti-Secession Law, passed on March 14, 2005, the PRC declared that it reserves the right to use force to solve this dispute with Taiwan, and the PRC currently has a large number of missiles aimed across the Taiwan Strait at Taiwan.
Why should Taiwan be a member of the United Nations?
The Taiwanese democratic government has been excluded from the United Nations, since the 1971 seating of the PRC. This violates the UN’s core principle since its establishment sixty years ago of universality for all nations and peoples. The UN Charter calls on “all other peace loving states” to join the organization.
However, China continues to refuse to let Taiwan participate in the UN or its related organizations, despite Taiwan’s important role in several other organizations such as WTO (World Trade Organization), The Asian Development Bank and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Taiwan’s’ long standing commitment to the UN principles of peace and human rights.
CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT
Taiwanese culture is an amalgamation of influences coming from indigenous roots and various Chinese Han traditional streams, strongly influenced by Japan since the colonial period and by the United States in recent decades. The interaction between all these makes Taiwan’s culture a mixture of East and West, of Modern and Traditional and of local and foreign manifestations, merged into a unique and singular fusion.
Especially since the 1990s, along with political liberalization, greater freedom for cultural identity allowed the rise of distinct traditions in areas. Internationally known for its rapid growth and modernization, Taiwan also intends to protect and promote its early traditions.
Indigenous culture includes a wide variety of art, craft, and rituals, notably woodcarving, weaving, basketry and music and dance. In the aim of promoting understanding and protection of Indigenous history culture, the government of Taiwan established a Cabinet-level agency, the Council of indigenous Peoples. Several museums have been established as well, notably the National Museum of Prehistory. Moreover, an Indigenous television channel, the Taiwan Indigenous Television (TITV), was set up in 2005 and broadcasts not only cultural manifestation, but also educational linguistic programs and entertainment show based on indigenous culture.
Taiwan Foundation for Democracy
http://www.tfd.org.tw/english/index.php Republic of China Government Information Office
http://www.gio.gov.tw/mp.asp Taiwan Headlines
http://www.taiwanheadlines.gov.tw Taipei Times
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/ Education in Taiwan
TAIWAN MEMBER PROFILE BROCHURE
For more information on Taiwan, including:
- UNPO Member Perspective
- Political Situation
- UNPO Perspective
- Current Issues
- Historical Background
- Key Questions
- Culture and Environment
Please download our Taiwan Member Profile Brochure.