The Free Taiwan Party openly defied a new passport rule issued by the Republic of China in-exile banning stickers. Party members visited the downtown Taipei office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Sept. 25 to surrender, after putting stickers that said Republic of Taiwan over the Republic of China name on the passport cover. Aquia Tsay led a group of thirty passport violaters openly displaying the banned stickers. Although the ROC authorities got out razorwire to scare the group, the handcuffs went unused as officials on the scene refused to make arrests.
The Free Taiwan Party is the newest and noisiest political party in Taiwan. Dedicated to Taiwanese independence, the new party is not involved in the upcoming ROC presidential election. The Free Taiwan Party seeks to elect members of the Legislative Yuan to obtain a legislative voice for an independent Taiwan and a referendum on national status. Last week the party hit a home run at the Asian Games with a widely televised demonstration against the name Chinese Taipei as part of the name for Taiwan’s baseball team. The once proud Team Taiwan has kowtowed to Chinese pressure and adopted Chinese Taipei, angering many of the fans.
Aquia Tsay said that the ROC passport is easy to be confused with the People’s Republic of China passport, and that the Republic of Taiwan stickers make a clear distinction between the two countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs fought back by seeking United States support against the stickers. Spokesperson Kung Chung-cheng, of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said the bureau has asked the American Institute in Taiwan about the matter. The AIT replied that if Taiwanese enter the United States using passports that have the official name obscured with stickers, with the aim of changing the features of the passport, U.S. Customs reserves the right to confiscate the passport or deny entry.
Kung added that the bureau has received complaints from travelers that when they clear customs in other countries, they have found some Taiwanese using Republic of Taiwan stickers on their passports being detained for interrogation, which slows the speed of customs clearance for other passengers.
Taiwan, or Formosa as it used to be called, is an island of 23 million people with unresolved sovereignty, The island belonged to Japan until the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952 ended World War II. Under occuption since 1945, the island has been controlled by the Republic of China at the direction of the United States. Because of Cold War politics, the ROC was given a free hand to control the island. A bloody massacre in 1947, followed by a terror campaign and four decades of harsh martial law under the Kuomintang rule. For many long years it was illegal for a Taiwan resident to advocate independence. The international status of the island remains unresolved with sovereignty undermined, hence the battle over a name takes on genuine significance.
Unable to be arrested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aquia led the non-violent lawbreakers to the gate of the Legislative Yuan, where they again displayed their modified ROC passports and held a vigil for Taiwan independence. The sticker issue began in August, when an enterprising individual printed them up to promote Taiwan’s independence. The stickers became a hit on Internet social networks. After the ROC made it illegal to paste stickers on passports, the Free Taiwan Party decided to test the new restriction. Given the Free Taiwan Party’s open defiance of the sticker ban, without arrest, it looks like the party has hit another home run out of the ballpark.