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Background Information

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs supports Taiwan independence, and aims to protect the sovereignty of the Taiwanese nation. To understand why we believe that Taiwan's sovereignty must be protected, we provide some background information to Taiwan and its history.

Early History

Taiwan was first settled by aboriginals of Austronesian decent who came to the island approximately 4000 years ago. Most of them inhabited the low-lying coastal plains, particularly those in western Taiwan.

Eventually, the aboriginals became outnumbered by Han immigrants travelling across the Taiwan Strait. These Han immigrants came from Southeast China, the vast majority coming from the Hakka and Hoklo ethnic groups, displacing many aboriginals from the western plains into the mountains.

The first European contact with Taiwan occurred in 1544 by Portuguese sailors. Deeply impressed by Taiwan's beauty, they dubbed the island, "Ilha Formosa", meaning beautiful island. However, it was Dutch traders, not the Portuguese, that would mark the beginning of Taiwan's colonial history. In 1624 the Dutch set up a base called Zeelandia on the island for trade and commerce located at present day Tainan. Two years later, Spanish traders would establish a trading post in northern Taiwan. The Spanish occupied this post until 1642 when driven out by a joint Dutch-Aborigine force. This left the Dutch as the only European presence on the island and the Dutch East India Company controlled administrative matters on Taiwan.

In 1662, Ming Dynasty loyalist Chen Ch'eng-kung (Koxinga) arrived in Taiwan and ousted the Dutch from Fort Zeelandia. Koxinga was hoping to re-establish Ming rule over China, but died soon after defeating Dutch forces. In 1683, those loyal to Koxinga submitted to Manchu Ching rule and Koxinga's followers were forced to depart from Taiwan.

The Manchu Ching dynasty nominally ruled over Taiwan as a prefecture. However, the Ching dynasty did not take an active part in the island's governmental administration because they viewed Taiwan as an outpost beyond civilization. During this time, Taiwan became the destination for increased numbers of Han settlers despite the Ching dynasty's anti-immigration policy. Most settlers came to flee wars and famines in China. When American, Japanese, and French sailors complained about the harassment of their ships by pirates in Taiwan, the Ching dynasty denied the responsibility of enforcing law on Taiwan.

It was not until 1887 that Ching imperialists decided to declare Taiwan to be a province of their Empire, to counteract expanding Japanese naval influence in East Asia. It was only at this point that the Chinese government took an active role in the administration of the island's affairs. However, at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese war, the Ching dynasty ceded control over Taiwan to Japan, thus ending eight years of active Chinese rule over the island.

Japanese Colonial Era

Taiwan was a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945. During this time, Japanese rule over Taiwan was strict and severe. Japanese authorities did not tolerate political dissent. Taiwanese citizens who struggled against harsh Japanese rule or spoke out for increased Taiwanese autonomy were imprisoned with excessive penalties.

The Japanese in 1945, having lost World War II, were forced to give up administrative control over Taiwan. The Allied powers agreed that Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist troops would temporarily occupy Taiwan on behalf of the Allied forces. Though the Taiwanese were glad to see the end of the Japanese era, they quickly became disillusioned with the new, corrupt, Nationalist administration, that was to rule over the Taiwan with an iron fist.

The Nationalists in Taiwan

Tensions developed between Taiwanese citizens and the Nationalist administration, culminating in the February 28 Massacre of 1947. Taiwanese citizens upset at the arrest of a cigarette seller and used this incident to oppose government oppression and corruption. Though Taiwan governor Chen-Yi appeared to negotiate with Taiwanese community leaders, Chiang Kai-Shek sent large numbers of troops from China to suppress dissent. As the troops arrived, they started rounding up and executing leaders of the protest movement as well as Taiwanese scholars, lawyers, and doctors. The casualties of this massacre number between 18000 and 28000.

In 1949, Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist forces had lost the Chinese civil war, and fled to Taiwan where he imposed the last remnant of his regime. The Nationalist party (KMT) continued to claim they were the rightful rulers of China that were in exile temporarily in Taiwan. Chiang's regime in Taiwan systematically oppressed political dissent and those supporting increased representation and autonomy in the island's administration. Chiang ignored their pleas, and imposed Martial Law on the island which was to last until 1987. His rule began a period of white terror, where those who demanded rights for Taiwanese citizens were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered.

In 1979, democracy activists attempted to attract international media attention to the plight of Taiwanese citizens under brutal Nationalist policies. On Human Rights Day that year, December 10, democracy activists staged large scale protests in the city of Kaohsiung, demanding the end to martial law and the repressive policies of the Nationalist government. These protests were quickly put down by the police, and the leaders of the protest were arrested, charged with sedition, and some imprisoned to life terms.

However, the demands of Taiwanese citizens for democracy and a greater say in the administration of their country led to President Chiang Ching-Kuo lifting martial law in 1987. Under President Lee Teng-Hui, Taiwan became increasingly democratized, with the first full parliamentary elections held in 1991, and the first presidential elections held in 1996. In 2000, Taiwanese citizens elected the island's first non-KMT president, Chen Shui-Bian of the Democratic Progressive Party.

A New Era in Taiwan

During this time, Taiwanese citizens have become more confident in their distinct Taiwanese identity, despite the claims of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that Taiwan belongs to China. Taiwanese want their country's sovereignty to be recognized internationally, and desire that their nation play an integral role in the international community. Taiwanese are proud of their achievements, and cherish the freedom that was earned with much suffering over the years. Because of the long history of Taiwanese being oppressed by outside rulers, Taiwanese citizens do not wish to be ruled by another entity, but believe steadfastly in self-rule, freedom, and democracy.

Despite the wishes of Taiwan's populace, the government of China continues to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, threatening the island nation with military attacks if Taiwan does not renounce its independence. China's missiles aimed at Taiwan threaten to disturb peace and stability in East Asia, while the wishes of Taiwan's 23 million citizens are ignored by the CCP.

At FAPA Canada, we believe that Taiwan is an independent nation whose citizens should have the right to self-determination. We aim to safeguard Taiwanese sovereignty, along with the hard earned democracy, freedom, and human rights of Taiwanese. Therefore, we work with Canadian politicians, non-governmental organizations and policy makers to gain Canadian support for Taiwan's achievements. We seek Canadian opposition to aggressive tactics and rhetoric by the Chinese government against Taiwan. We also hope to increase the international profile of Taiwan so that it can be a full participant in the international community, joining bodies such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations.

If you wish to help FAPA Canada defend freedom and democracy on Taiwan, we encourage you to join us. Just click here, fill in a membership form and send your membership fee to the address listed. We are grateful for your support of our important cause!

For information regarding FAPA Canada and our activities, please contact: info@fapacanada.org

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