Saturday, March 25, 2006

The History of the Taiwan Assembly

Taiwan News has a long article outlining the island's attempts to get itself a representative assembly. It gives a good feel of what it is a like to be a colonial population for a century.....
Establishing a Taiwan representative assembly was the initial goal of local democracy activists. It took 98 years, from since the short-lived Taiwan Republic founded the first local assembly in 1895, to when Taiwanese people elected a general congress in 1993.

Though mostly symbolic, the Taiwan Republic established the assembly in 1895 as part of its plan to create the first democratic republic in East Asia.

Two decades later, the islanders kicked off a campaign to establish a Taiwan Representative Assembly under Japanese colonial rule.

The promulgation of Japan Law No. 63, which outlined rules for governing Taiwan, made it clear that the colony would be managed by a Japanese governor under different regulations from those observed by the government in Tokyo.

The law authorized the Japanese governor of Taiwan to rule the island according to his own discretion. The governor was empowered to promulgate administrative orders, instead of seeking statutory grounds provided by the Japan Diet (Parliament).

At the end of World War I, driven by the prevailing ideal of national self-determination, a number of young Taiwanese, including some who had returned from studying in Japan, launched a campaign of peaceful resistance to colonization. They formed various groups to promote the movement.

The discussions among these intellectuals on abolishing Law No. 63 resulted in a range of diverse opinions.

The most noted proposal, made by Lin Cheng-lu in 1920, presented a view that differed from the movement's priority of revoking the special law. Lin suggested that the pursuit of a representative system that would give Taiwanese the power of legislation would be a more substantive goal than striving to strip the Japanese governor of his legislative power.

Many advocates of autonomy endorsed Lin's view. They thought that abolishing Law No. 63 could prove unfavorable to Taiwan's democratic development.

They did not want to risk assimilation under the Tokyo government if the special law was replaced by the full legislative system of Japan, whose social customs and traditions were different from those of Taiwan.

In a bid to attain the goal of establishing a representative assembly, advocates filed 15 petitions with Tokyo's Empire Parliament from 1921 to 1934, seeking Japanese congressmen's support to push for the government to allow representative autonomy in Taiwan.

Staging sit-in demonstrations outside the empire parliament, Taiwanese petitioners informed the Japanese congressmen that the key to realizing constitutional governance in Taiwan was to ensure that the colony's residents would not suffer any form of discrimination, such as exclusion from political participation.

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