Taiwanese independence activist Roger Lin and his organization, Taiwan Civil Government, filed a lawsuit against the United States and the Republic of China in-exile in the District of Columbia U.S. District Court on Feb. 27. While the lawsuit was being filed in Washington, D.C. other independence activists were busy in Taiwan defacing statues of former ROC dictator Chiang Kai-shek across the island.
The 228 Massacre, which was a 1947 rampage by Kuomintang troops against civilians, was illegal to even talk about for nearly four decades of harsh martial law. The anniversary of the killings has become an annual memorial when Taiwanese independence becomes the topic of the day.
The complaint for declaratory judgment was filed by attorney Charles Camp who specializes in international law and litigated Roger Lin v. United States in 2009. The earlier case brought by Lin sought U.S. passports for the residents of Taiwan.
Camp explained the new lawsuit: “The case raises broad questions about the nationality rights under international law, and current US policy regarding Taiwan. The ultimate goal of the Plaintiffs is to obtain for the people of Taiwan the right to exercise their right of self-determination—a right guaranteed by even the United Nations Charter—so their statelessness status one day will be ended once and for all time.”
The complaint is a carefully crafted history lesson attacking the 1946 ROC Nationality Decrees which deprived the residents of Taiwan, then commonly called Formosa, of their Japanese citizenship. These decrees, never authorized by the United States, have left the island residents stateless, trapped in what the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals called “political purgatory.” The United States installed the Chinese Kuomintang regime on the island to process surrendering Japanese soldiers at the end of World War II.
According to the lawsuit, the “ROC’s nationality decrees imposed upon the people of Taiwan, without the express or implied consent of the people of Taiwan, an ROC nationality that, to this day, does not offer the people of Taiwan an internationally accepted nationality.”
The lawsuit bases its claim on the law of agency, arguing that the ROC rulers were agents of the United States. The 2009 case stalled when the courts held the passport issue was political in nature and not a legal matter, although the federal appellate court sympathized with the 23 million Formosa residents caught in a “strategic ambiguity” as a result of the Cold War and American foreign policy.
Roger Lin and Taiwan Civil Government are no strangers to controversy. Lin once courted two former ROC presidents, Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, but fell out of favor with both. Former ROC Justice Minister Cheng Chung-mo was also an ally of Lin until the two parted ways over a money dispute.
Taiwan Civil Government, which boasts a membership of 30,000, had its own schism, also over money, and broke into two factions. Lin’s group remains based in Taiwan and holds training camps at its headquarters in Taoyuan City. Meanwhile, Taiwan Government USA, headed by Nieco Tsai, is based in the United States and is striving to obtain internationally accepted travel documents for the stateless residents of Taiwan.
Roger Lin’s critics see him as an opportunist who takes advantage of Taiwan’s unresolved status while his supporters consider Lin a dedicated foe of the Kuomintang who is shrewd enough to use American courts to raise the issue of Taiwan’s plight. The Republic of China in-exile claims sovereignty over Taiwan while the People’s Republic of China also makes territorial claims calling the island Chinese Taipei. Neither of the two Chinese governments was a signatory to the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan that put the United States in charge as the “principal occupying power.”
The pending lawsuit is the first time the United States and the Republic of China in-exile have been named as joint defendants over Taiwan’s tortured history. Taiwan Civil Government has scheduled a news conference in March at the National Press Club where Charles Camp will answer questions about the litigation.