Reasons for Requesting the Establishment of a Taiwanese Parliament

Introduction by James Gerien-Chen, University of Florida


In January 1923, a group of young Taiwanese men delivered a petition to the headquarters of the Taipei Police to request permission to form the “League for the Establishment of a Taiwan Parliament” (Taiwan gikai kisei dōmeikai). After the colonial police denied their request, members of the group, undeterred, traveled to Japan, where a police office in Tokyo approved the organization the following month. Many of the group’s members were in their early thirties and had been involved in political activism for nearly a decade. They hoped the league would formalize their efforts to lobby the Japanese Diet, the empire’s parliamentary body based in Tokyo, to recognize a separate parliament for Taiwan, which became a Japanese colony in 1895. Between 1921 and 1934, the group submitted a total of fifteen petitions to the Diet through members (politicians) sympathetic to their cause. None of these petitions passed committee review for broader debate on the Diet floor and the local parliament was never approved. This source is an excerpt from the “reasons” (riyūsho) the petitioners gave to justify the urgency of the parliament. The problems they identified with colonial rule in Taiwan and the solutions they proposed reveal the local, regional, and global forces that shaped colonial administration, the changes colonial rule was undergoing in the 1920s, and the possibilities of, and limitations to, these young petitioners’ efforts to demand greater political participation and representation for colonial Taiwanese.


Many of the petitioners’ grievances targeted fundamental elements of colonial rule that had taken shape during the first two decades of colonial rule. After the Japanese colonization of Taiwan in 1895, the colonial government (Government-General), led by a Governor-General, was empowered with broad legislative and administrative discretion. “Law 63,” for example, allowed the Governor-General to pass laws for colonial Taiwan without the approval of the Japanese Diet, placing Taiwan outside of the administrative scope of the Diet. Throughout the 1910s, Taiwanese criticized this supreme authority consolidated in the Government-General: they viewed it as a violation of the Japanese empire’s Constitution (the “Meiji” Constitution, which went to effect in 1890), which provided, at least in theory, for the separation of executive, legislative, and judiciary powers. “Law 63” required periodic renewal by the Diet every five years, which gave occasion to efforts by colonial Taiwanese to advocate for its abolition.


As part of the Government-General’s efforts to exercise social and administrative control down to the village level, it established the “Hokō system,” which was a wide-ranging system of mutual household surveillance and collective responsibility. The system organized Taiwan’s Han Chinese population into groups of ten households that were in turn organized into one hundred and then one thousand household groups. The Hokō system required these groups collectively to provide labor for municipal works projects like road construction. The system also facilitated local police oversight over village-level life by holding group leaders, nominally elected, responsible for the actions of the group’s members. By the 1920s, Taiwanese activists targeted this system of social control for reform. Many group leaders, though ostensibly participants in (and potential beneficiaries of) the Hokō system, were among the signatories of the petitions to establish a Taiwanese parliament.


The source also includes critiques of the fiscal structure of Japanese colonial rule. The Government-General sought to reorient Taiwan’s agricultural production to serve metropolitan Japan and facilitate investment by Japanese corporations to stabilize the colonial government’s fiscal base. To do so, the Government-General subsidized large sugar corporations and required sugarcane farmers to sell their raw materials to a single specifically designated corporation, thereby reducing corporations’ competition for raw materials and thus the farmers’ bargaining power—petitioners refer to this policy in the source as the “Raw Sugar Harvesting Zone System.” Colonial policies to subsidize Japanese capitalist investment and development in the first two decades of Japanese rule in Taiwan, not to mention the extensive police system, resulted in colonial subjects in Taiwan shouldering a much higher tax burden per capita than their counterparts in the Japanese metropole.


The petitioners also critiqued the education system. In the early years of colonial rule, educational institutions and the opportunities they provided were segregated into a two track system: one for Japanese settlers and one for Taiwan’s Chinese inhabitants. The latter system did not extend beyond elementary school, preventing colonial Taiwanese subjects from pursuing higher education. A group of elite Taiwanese took aim at this system by forming the Assimilation Society (Dōkakai) in 1915, which was led by Lin Xiantang (1881–1956), a member of the largest landholding family in central Taiwan and enjoyed the support of retired Japanese politician Itagaki Taisuke (1837–1919). The Society advocated the establishment of a middle school for Taiwanese students as a means to achieve, over time, social equality of treatment with the Japanese living in colonial Taiwan. Although it attracted support from fellow elite Taiwanese and sympathetic Japanese observers in metropolitan Japan, the Government-General and Japanese settlers in Taiwan remained fiercely opposed. The colonial government disbanded the Society just months after its founding, as soon as Itagaki left Taiwan. Still, the Society can be seen as an early example of a decades-long effort to advocate for social equality for colonial Taiwanese through equality of access to educational opportunities: Government-General reforms in the late 1910s first opened institutions for Japanese settlers to a select number of colonial Taiwanese based not on ethnicity but Japanese language ability. Later, the Government-General streamlined Taiwanese institutions to focus on vocational training, albeit only in specific industries.


A combination of local, regional, and global changes in the late 1910s transformed the political context of colonial rule in Taiwan. World War I, which the Japanese empire joined on the side of the Allies, challenged existing justifications for colonial rule worldwide. The treaties that dismantled the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires enshrined “cultural distinctiveness” of self-determining national populations as the justification for forming new nation-states, above all in Eastern Europe. Britain, France, and the United States, the world’s dominant imperial powers, had framed the war as one against tyranny and autocracy. This vocabulary of opposing tyranny and autocracy gave moral force to colonial subjects’ critiques of colonial administration in India, Egypt, and elsewhere, which in 1919 erupted in anti-colonial political movements worldwide. Historians have argued that the new discourses of “developing the political capacity of the colonized” and protecting “minority” populations, enabled by the new global institution of the League of Nations, functioned as imperialism by another name. Still, rhetorical, political, and social changes transformed the context in which colonized populations, including those in East Asia, critiqued empire and its justifications. Moreover, popular movements in the wake of the war’s end demanded political representation for “ordinary” European working-class individuals.


The Japanese empire was part of these global transformations. The March First Movement of 1919 in colonial Korea, an anti-colonial uprising involving some two million Koreans across the peninsula, shook the foundations of Japanese rule there. Two months later, university students rose up in Beijing and elsewhere in China in the May Fourth Movement to protest the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty allowed Japan to maintain control over formerly German territorial possessions in China, which students hoped would be returned to China in recognition of Chinese contributions to the Allied war effort. The May Fourth Movement articulated a new vision of Chinese nationalism as a solution to its members’ perception of China’s geopolitical weakness. Some members critiqued “tradition” as an impediment to progress while others refashioned the longevity of Chinese civilization as the justification for China’s participation in global politics as an equal, and not semi-colonial, member. In this context, consider how the Taiwanese petitioners articulated their membership in the “Han race” within the changing landscape of Chinese nationalism, which itself had many varieties in the 1910s and 1920s. Across East Asia and the world, participants in such calls for social change as the March First and May Fourth Movements mobilized the new categories of “youth” and “student.” These new keywords inverted existing aged-based hierarchies and positioned its members as new categories of political actors.


While no large-scale protest erupted in Taiwan, colonial Taiwanese both on the island and resident in Japan participated in these broader political transformations. Following the March First Movement in Korea, colonial administration in Korea and Taiwan shifted to a logic of “extending the homeland” (naichi enchō shugi). This process provided, at least in theory, for the gradual extension of Japanese laws and institutions to the colonies with the eventual goal of political integration. In 1919, Prime Minister Hara Takashi appointed Den Kenjirō, a civilian bureaucrat, to serve as the Governor-General of Taiwan, a post previously held exclusively by military leaders. In 1921, the Diet passed a law allowing for the gradual extension of metropolitan Japanese laws to the colony. As Governor-General, for example, Den maintained the two-tracked educational system but defined the tracks not by ethnic/racial identity (Japanese vs. Taiwanese) but by “Japanese language proficiency.” Japanese language proficiency therefore became the basis of Taiwanese students’ access to better educational opportunities.


The post-World War I context of metropolitan Japan also shaped the petitioners’ political efforts. Limited opportunities for colonial subjects to pursue higher education in Taiwan led elite families to send their children, especially sons, to Japan for advanced schooling—by 1922, official records counted some 2,400 Taiwanese enrolled in educational institutions in Japan, with the total number of colonial Taiwanese in the metropole certainly higher. With political activity and publishing in Taiwan heavily censored by the colonial police, many of these students, mostly young men, found university environments in Japan more hospitable to political expression. In March 1920, for example, the “New People’s Society,” one such organization comprised mostly of Taiwanese students in Tokyo, started to publish the periodical “Taiwan Youth.” Over time, this periodical became the venue for debating issues including Law 63, the requirement of passports to travel between colonial Taiwan and China, the sugarcane harvesting system, and others. In this document, the petitioners reiterate some of these perennial concerns while modifying others, like the repeal of Law 63, which they expanded into a broader critique of unrepresentative, authoritarian governance. The ability to publish “Taiwan Youth” and successfully form the “League for the Establishment of a Taiwan Parliament” in Tokyo demonstrates the severity of censorship in colonial Taiwan more than any idealized liberal and permissive atmosphere in metropolitan Japan. Still, their efforts spanned the metropole and colony, much to the chagrin of the Government-General.


The new logic of “extending the homeland” and its goal of “assimilation” in this period generated new social reform programs and efforts at moral suasion by colonial authorities, which only deepened the reach of colonial administration in local society. Colonial authorities in Taiwan and Korea endeavored to accommodate critiques of overly harsh rule by framing these policies as a good-faith effort to provide colonial subjects with new opportunities for political participation and social engagement, however limited and paternalistic they were in reality. Efforts by the petitioners to assert a distinct identity as colonized subjects can be interpreted in two ways: on the one hand, as participation in the global discourse of “cultural distinctiveness” and, on the other, a reaction to this new logic of assimilation.


Despite these reforms, administrative, judiciary, legislative, and executive authority remained largely concentrated in the Government-General’s hands. The Governor-General expanded his “consultative council” (hyōgikai) to include Taiwanese members, but they were appointed at the discretion of the Governor-General to an essentially an advisory body with no binding authority. The May Fourth Movement in China and the Chinese nationalist and labor movements that followed in the 1920s (targeting Japanese imperialism in China), convinced liberal diplomats and politicians in Tokyo that relations with China should be conducted on the basis of “Sino-Japanese friendship.” In this context, it is no wonder that the Taiwanese petitioners mobilized the metaphor of a “bridge between China and Japan” to describe themselves, their distinctive identity, and their place in the world.


Therefore, although the League submitted a version of this petition nearly every year until the early 1930s, its members, their goals, and the broader movement to establish a parliament transformed over this period. Efforts to bring about social and political change through political representation in a local parliament was only one of a wide range of ways that colonized subjects across the Japanese empire identified the problems of colonial rule and diagnosed problems to it. Other efforts ranged from incremental reform led from above by local elites to bottom-up anti-colonial armed resistance and nationalist revolution. The specter of armed anti-colonial revolution that threatened to upend the entire structure of Japanese imperialism likely strengthened petitioners’ commitment to reiterate that they sought to work within, and not against, the framework of colonial rule. The threat of police repression was real—a number of the League’s members were arrested and briefly imprisoned upon returning to Taiwan after successfully submitting the petition to the Tokyo police in 1923. The Government-General also pressured the group’s elder and often more conservative patrons, like Lin Xiantang, by threatening to recall the loans that the Bank of Taiwan had lent them. Throughout the 1920s, anti-Communism and the (perceived and real) threat of broad socio-economic revolution shaped policies across the Japanese empire: anything that could be interpreted as seditious or a critique of empire was banned outright, leaving those who were committed to the movement to establish a parliament ever more at pains to reiterate that they did not challenge the fundamental structures of colonial rule. The passage of universal male suffrage in metropolitan Japan in 1925 greatly expanded the electorate. On the eve of the first election following this change in 1928, Cai Peihuo, a key figure in the League and the broader movement to establish the local parliament, sought to appeal to these new voters in metropolitan Japan on the basis of the shared experience between formerly disenfranchised Japanese men and colonized Taiwanese. His appeal, translated by Kate McDonald and available here, is a useful complement to this source for considering how changes in the 1920s shaped the movement’s rhetorical strategies even while exposing its limits.


As some political activists like Cai adhered to the goal of political representation, to be achieved by petitioning the Japanese Diet for legislation, others began to critique the limitations of political representation altogether and the petition as the means to achieve change. A younger generation of Taiwanese identified issues facing rural farmers as the most pressing, which required their participation in strikes and demonstration and efforts to radicalize and mobilize rural farmers. Over time, these younger, more radical Taiwanese took aim at landlords like Lin Xiantang: they identified these erstwhile leaders in the local parliament movement as the problem rather than the nominal allies they once were. By 1927, this fracture—political and generational—split the movement in two. Although the group’s more conservative members continued submitting petitions to the Diet until 1934, the consistency of their singular goal to ensure local parliamentary representation belies the rapid changes in the political and social context in which this goal existed.


Questions:


As you read, ask yourself the following questions:


1. How do the petitioners justify the necessity of a Taiwanese Parliament? What kinds of examples do they draw on?


2. What was the existing structure of colonial rule? What reforms did the petitioners call for, and why?


3. How do the petitioners characterize “assimilation” policies? How is their characterization related to their demand for a parliament? What global historical examples do they mobilize to substantiate their demands?


4. Why might the Government-General be unwilling to accept the petitioners’ demands? From whom do the petitioners anticipate resistance, and why?


5. Are the petitioners advocating for independence? Why/why not?


Source Information:

Taiwan gikai setchi seigan riyūsho (February 1923)



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Reasons for Requesting the Establishment of

a Taiwanese Parliament

(Taiwan gikai setchi seigan riyūsho)


2. Present condition of governance in Taiwan


As previously described, present governance in Taiwan is, from an organizational point of view, an autocracy: the Governor-General of Taiwan exclusively holds executive, legislative and judicial powers. Although the Consultative Council, comprised of the councilors (nine high ranking officials, nine Japanese non-officials, and nine Taiwanese) involved in appointing the Governor-General, exists, those government-appointed councilors are unable to represent the just will of the people. As an advisory body, their reports are ineffective in reforming officials’ abuse of power. Considering the discretionary nature of their advice, the council lacks a raison d’être. Such a consultative body that exists only in name is completely ineffective in ameliorating the unconstitutional government of the autocratic Governor-General. Furthermore, when administrative agencies’ illegal measures harm the rights of Taiwanese (islanders), there are no means of appealing for relief through the administrative court system. They [Taiwanese] lack the freedom to complain to “virtuous men who are interested in worldly concerns.”[1] Ultimately, despite the tyranny they suffer, they have no choice but to obey official authority and groan under the unconstitutional system. Some semblance of local organizations has recently emerged due to the promulgation of the Taiwanese province-city-town-village system. As self-governing local organizations, the province-, city-, town- and village-level councils should possess decision-making mechanisms. But they do not possess any decision-making authority vis-à-vis advisory bodies formed by government-appointed councilors; this is an irregular system where local organizations’ only duty is tax collection, and they are not granted the right to local self-governance. Moreover, failing to abolish the existing Hokō system — an auxiliary police system — has aggravated the tax burden on Taiwanese (islanders): this is truly a system inconsistent with the times that causes ordinary islanders to suffer by imposing an uncivilized collective responsibility law. Additionally, although Taiwanese who understand Japanese comprise only a paltry 2.9% of the total population of Taiwan (according to the national census of October 1, 1920), the General Education Decree has set Japanese as the exclusive language of instruction. This obstructs the idiosyncratic freedoms of children and slows the development of intellectual training, which is akin to making brilliant, extraordinary talents ordinary. There is no other example among modern civilized countries where crimes equivalent to rioting are given a heavier sentence than insurrection, as is prescribed by the Bandit Punishment Ordinance. Vagabonds in the Japanese home islands (naichi) are punished according to the Police Offenses Punishment Ordinance, but in Taiwan, people’s physical liberty can be restrained indefinitely by the administrative measures of local officials. The opium monopoly raises an annual sales revenue of 6,000,000 yen, requiring the circulation of opium—internationally prohibited—which exhausts the minds and bodies of Taiwanese (islanders) and ignores international morals. [Authorities] interfere with rice farmers and force them to cultivate bananas. In accordance with the newly introduced Raw Sugar Harvesting Zone System, harvested bananas are shipped out of their designated zones and are not allowed to be sold except as a raw ingredient for sugar manufacturing, and must be sold to designated sugar production companies. Moreover, since farmers arrange the sale price [of bananas] only with the approval of government agencies, one can easily surmise that banana farmers suffer enormous losses. While a passport is not required for travel by ship from the home islands to the Republic of China, Taiwanese must have a passport to travel by ship from Taiwan to the Republic of China. This makes it inconvenient for Taiwanese to travel and trade across the Taiwan Strait and hinders friendly relations between Japan and China. All of these [examples] trample on human rights and discard morality, testifying to running against the tide of the times.


The estimated annual income and expenses of the home islands in 1922 is 1.48 billion yen, which, with a population of 57 million, amounts to over twenty-six yen per capita. In the same year, the Government-General’s estimated annual income and expenses in Taiwan is 106 million yen — which, with a population of 3.7 million, amounts to over twenty-eight yen per capita. If the expenditures of the imperial household and military are subtracted from government spending on the home islands, government expenditures and the servicing of national debt is 820 million yen, amounting to over fourteen yen per capita. Thus, the per capita national debt and government spending burden for Taiwanese is exactly twice that [for residents of the home islands]. As such, considering that government expenditure in Taiwan is twice that of the home islands while governance in Taiwan is not half as advanced as the home islands, one must realize how inflated Taiwanese government expenditures are and, at the same time, how overburdened Taiwanese are. Over half of the [colonial] government’s annual income relies on indirect taxes and government-run enterprises, which gradually and ultimately siphon the resources of the island and drain the wealth of the islanders. Moreover, the North-South highway, which commenced construction in 1920, is nearly 300 ri in length, has a width of approximately ten ken, [and] used about 1000 chōbu of land. During the three years of construction, land was seized from Taiwanese (islanders) under the pretext of donation, [and Taiwanese] were conscripted as forced labor under the Hokō system’s regulations. Furthermore, the Tainan irrigation system underwent excavation starting in 1920, the beginning of the economic downturn, along a six-year 50,000,000 yen construction plan — a wasteful and lax expenditure. This caused regional manpower to become even more impoverished. Last summer, overly sensitive police officers caused the Changhua Incident and tortured many good citizens, causing the hearts of all Taiwanese to be uneasy. All of these are serious problems that cannot be overlooked from the perspective of humanitarian justice.


Like the relevant colonial authorities, we support the ideology of “extending the homeland”. On the other hand, however, Taiwanese are unable to transfer their family register to the Japanese home islands, while Japanese can change their place of household registration (domicile). Japanese also lie outside the scope of the Hokō system, so the troublesome and unnecessary expenses of the Hokō regulations do not apply to them. Moreover, Japanese officials are granted an extra allowance and official residences, which is akin to favorable treatment. None of these policies make Taiwan an extension of the Japanese home islands; they only make it a land for Japanese migrants to exploit economically. Expecting conclusive success from such unnatural governance policy is like climbing a tree to look for a fish. Therefore, we are committed to accomplishing the new mission of an international Taiwan by: surveying the general situation of the world; considering the future of East Asia (Tōyō) while bearing in mind the empire’s current circumstances; prioritizing self-reflection; [and] expressing our resolute conviction home and abroad as Taiwanese facing the new era.


3. The need to grant Taiwanese special rights to suffrage


Constitutional government has advanced remarkably among the civilized nations of Europe and America and has finally become a universal truth and a necessary condition for human beings to coexist. The popular consensus of the self-aware masses is foundational to these ideals. Law-making must rely on a representative system, governance must rely on a system of local self-government, the judicial system must rely on a jury system, and each citizen must be bestowed suffrage: thus are national interests and people’s welfare pursued. The degree to which suffrage is bestowed depends on the development of the people and differs [in each case], but there is no reason that suffrage should belong exclusively to the citizens of the mother country, [and that] the colony’s residents should not participate [in government].


Additionally, much as the recent passionate demands for universal suffrage in the home islands are not unlawful, [we] do not hesitate to assert that it is just and rational to demand the right for the residents of Taiwan to participate in a special Taiwanese legislature. Even if there is disagreement on the appropriate timing for the residents of Taiwan to participate in law-making, Taiwan’s present social situation has passed the phase where it is necessary to sustain a system which unifies both legislative and executive powers, as previously mentioned.


The conclusion of the Covenant of the League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference advocated the civilized nations reform their foreign relations and internal affairs, and established new principles for colonial rule which must gauge the welfare and development of backward peoples. The recent Washington Conference reduced naval size among the three great [naval] powers, amended the Four-Power Treaty, and made arrangements for the defense of the Pacific Ocean. On the surface, these [developments] appear to preserve lasting peace in the world. But once one enters the interior of each nation’s society, one notices that all of the weaker peoples[2] are in high spirits regarding popular government, exclaiming about humanitarianism, and demanding emancipation and a restructuring of society. Therefore, the future of human society is still far from reassuring.


In the event of such an international crisis, any subject of the Japanese empire should certainly strive for growing friendship with foreign nations, as well as to unite its people and strengthen the national foundations, thereby contributing to world culture and peace among humanity. Given this, the more than 3,600,000 new subjects[3] in Taiwan must accomplish their important mission to promote historical amity between the Japanese and Chinese races, [and] especially assist the empire’s geographical southward advance. Needless to say, it is imperative first to establish the underlying principle of constitutional government in Taiwan [and] equalize the treatment of new and old races. Up until now, the Government-General has established criminal and civil codes as a legislative body on the one hand, while enforcing those laws as the executive body on the other. Furthermore, it has upheld this system through courts of law underpinned by its own decrees. [This] concentrates ad hoc, life-or-death power in a single individual. Even if the Government-General were always fair, impartial, and harmless, such a structure should not be maintained, given the factors that caused various past scandals. As such, this unconstitutional system suppresses human rights and does not facilitate the will of the people. It forces new subjects to suffer and accumulate grievances in vain and pushes them into self-desperation, tarnishing the history of East Asia’s development. [We] must guarantee that colonial rule will not fail one step short of great success. On these grounds, we demand the Imperial Diet grant residents of Taiwan their rational, special[4] rights to suffrage, which would be a manifestation of the people’s earnestness in step with the present times.


4. Summary of the petition to establish a Taiwanese Parliament


According to the aforementioned points, the need for a special legislature in Taiwan is ongoing, regardless of what happens in the future. The time has arrived for the residents of Taiwan to take part in [electing] that special legislature on the basis of proper practice of constitutional governance. Hence, considering the empire’s international position of maintaining peace in East Asia and bearing in mind current international unrest, there is no government policy more ideal for uniting the popular sentiment of the residents of Taiwan than allowing them to participate in a special legislature. We first petitioned the Imperial Diet to establish a Taiwanese Parliament last year and this is the third time this year that we submit this petition. The Taiwanese Parliament would not discriminate between Japanese residing in Taiwan, Taiwanese, or cooked savages (jukuban)[5] who live within the administrative districts. It should be a representative body that is formed from equally and publicly elected representatives and that authorizes the budget of Taiwan and the special laws to be enforced in Taiwan. Therefore, the legislative items that have the quality of applying to both Taiwan and Japan remain subject to the Imperial Diet; only legislation concerning affairs unique to Taiwan — which the Imperial Diet is unable to create — will be subject to the Taiwanese Parliament. We are concerned that establishing the Taiwanese Parliament while limiting its legislation to the affairs specific to Taiwan will amount to a halfway measure. But we hope to satisfy Taiwan’s development with the fewest obstructions possible.


Moreover, we recognize that there are those who, in addition to a special representative system, go one step further[6] and demand colonial self-determination with a complete legislative assembly and a cabinet responsible to it, akin to what the British Empire’s self-governing dominions of New Zealand and Australia possess. Considering the development of national spirit (minzokuteki seishin) in the aftermath of the European War,[7] this is not necessarily an unreasonable position. But in practical consideration of Taiwan’s present condition, we are yet to support such a hastily developed idealistic proposition.


(Omitted: Section 5, “Addressing the Argument Opposing the Establishment of a Taiwanese Parliament, parts 1 and 2.)


3. Some advocate a colonial policy of “extending the homeland”[8] and try to execute an incomprehensive assimilation policy, opposing our petition to establish a Taiwanese Parliament. An assimilation policy, in the strict definition of the term, indeed aims to unite and assimilate; it governs Taiwan — which is different from the home islands in historical beliefs, popular sentiment, and practices — in a manner similar to that of the prefectures of the home islands. Furthermore, it enforces the home islands’ legal system entirely as it is, [and] in doing so extinguishes the special characteristics inherent to Taiwanese. However, attempting to erase the history of the empire’s new subjects is not only unnatural, in forcing [them] to follow the motherland’s customs and ideas, but also ignores societal demands necessary for their development. In cases where migrants from the mother country [Japan] far outnumber the indigenous people of the colonies—who knows if[9] some degree of results are achieved by enforcing [assimilation] in regions where savages without history reside—carrying out [assimilation] in regions possessing considerable culture and history will certainly foment new subjects’ animosity towards the motherland.


As a result, advocating assimilation policy on the one hand while adhering to a special system based on self-governance on the other—copying the motherland’s system when it is convenient for governing, while relying on the ad hoc principle of “privileging the motherland” and adopting a special system when it is inconvenient—is not at all a wise policy that will bring about positive outcomes for the governance of new territories.


Below we elucidate the legitimacy of the petition to establish a Taiwanese Parliament by illustrating the history of merits and demerits of the world’s colonizing powers’ assimilation policies.


France is an advanced colonial power which employs assimilation policies. After the great [French] revolution, France established a policy of assimilation based on the spirit of freedom and equality. France regards its colonies as an extension of the motherland (“Prolongement de la metropole”) and allows for the election of representatives from colonies to France’s representative assembly. But considering the current changes of the times and many years of practical experimentation [with this policy], many have come to doubt the value of the assimilation policy and it is gradually changing. In Algeria, which was governed as an inseparable territory, [the colonial government] abolished the natives’ [dochakumin] family and racial systems, prohibited the joint ownership of land, and applied the French Forest Code, etc., and strove for assimilationist policies. But as a result, social organizations of agitators all the more denounce the government of the mother country.


Additionally, influential opposition to assimilation policies emerged at the end of the 19th century, leading the French public to harbor anxieties about the failure of assimilation policies in French Indochina and other colonies. Furthermore, in 1898, Mr. Deschanel proposed abolishing the membership of representatives from Cochinchina, the French West Indies, and Senegal in the French National Assembly, and in 1900, the Governor-General of French Indochina deliberated the hazards of assimilation policy from legislative and societal angles in his report to the Minister of the Colonies. In the same year the French government enacted a new public finance law with the aim of promoting the colonies’ financial independence. This law made Algeria, whose finances had been part of the metropolitan budget, financially independent. Except for Algeria and the twenty-three protectorates, most French colonies have a system of assimilation and a system of self-governance running in parallel. Colonial residents have the right to elect representatives to the French National Assembly while colonial assemblies, to a certain degree, are granted the authority to legislate on the colony’s internal affairs. From this, one can understand that such a policy of self-governance has resulted from accounting for past failures of assimilation policy. Not even a country like France, whose politics are based on the spirit of freedom and equality and democratic republicanism, can achieve satisfactory results with assimilation in/for colonial rule.


(Omission: the petitioner lays out examples of failed assimilation policies, including those in Alsace, annexed by the German empire in 1871, and the newly independent Ukraine, which had been part of the Russian empire for centuries.)

Moreover, Ireland has been regarded as a total extension of Britain proper. The majority of its residents are of the race of “Celts” called “Britons” and believe in Roman Catholicism. After the Irish Parliament was incorporated into the British Parliament in 1801, and because [the Irish] suffered unequal treatment, Irish parliamentarians eventually formed the Irish Parliamentary Party, did not split from Britain, and demanded from the British Parliament that they be given a system of complete self-government, like Canada. Even though the 1885 Cabinet carefully considered the matter and submitted a proposal for Irish self-government, they met attack from the opposition party, [and] the Cabinet collapsed. After that, although this self-government bill passed the lower house three times over the course of more than thirty years, the upper house [continued to] reject the bill. However, it finally passed both upper and lower houses in December 1919 after the recent Great War. Nevertheless, because the “Sinn Féin” Party — which has been advocating Irish independence for many years and is comprised of Roman Catholics from Southern Ireland — had already demanded independence, the self-government bill was of course unsatisfactory. Taking into account that state of affairs, the British government negotiated with the representatives of the “Sinn Féin” Party in the spirit of mutual concession and compromise in London last year. Despite many negotiations, they finally reached an agreement in mid-December last year which would grant complete colonial self-government in the form of the Irish Free State. Due to such great concessions from both the British and Irish, [and] to the extraordinary insight of British Prime Minister Lloyd George and “Sinn Féin” Party representative Mr Griffith, a proper and fair resolution to the Irish problem — which was the greatest affliction in the last 120 years — was achieved, which is truly the greatest accomplishment in the history of the British empire.

In view of the aforementioned examples, forceful assimilation policies will fail and those territories will ultimately be lost. One must deduce that moderate self-government succeeds and increasingly advances national fortunes. In addition, [this] proves that using failed and incomplete assimilationist ideology to oppose the petition to establish a Taiwanese Parliament—which must also be said to have some significance as preparation for self-government—has no basis in loyalty to the Japanese empire.


In view of the aforementioned examples, forceful assimilation policies will fail and those territories will ultimately be lost. One must deduce that moderate self-government succeeds and increasingly advances national fortunes. In addition, [this] proves that using failed and incomplete assimilationist ideology to oppose the petition to establish a Taiwanese Parliament—which must also be said to have some significance as preparation for self-government—has no basis in loyalty to the Japanese empire.


(Translated by Jude Leong Wei Zhong, National University of Singapore, and edited by James Gerien-Chen)

[1] The phrase, “virtuous men who are interested in worldly concerns” is a reference to a passage in the Chapter 8 entitled “Webbed Toes” in the Outer Chapters of Zhuangzi. Refer to “Nowadays the benevolent men of the age …… their greed for eminence and wealth” in The Complete Works of Zhuangzi, trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 61. [2] This term could have two related meanings. Adhering to Social Darwinist conceptions that “weaker peoples” were colonized, this term often referred to colonized subjects. The term could also refer to working class movements that spread across metropolitan Europe in the wake of World War I. [3] i.e. colonial subjects; referred to as “new subjects” because Taiwan became a colony of the Japanese empire in 1895. [4] Jp. Tokubetsu sanseiken; i.e. “special” in in the sense of being particular to Taiwan (and not empire-wide). [5] “Acculturated” indigenous Taiwanese. [6] lit. strive to make progress even after reaching the summit [7] I.e. the First World War. [8] The colonial policy that the laws and administrative structure of the home islands of the Japanese empire would, in time, be “extended” to the colonies of Taiwan and Korea. [9] This is my translation for the “収べきやも知らざれど” since it seems to be an extreme example of where such a policy *might* be successful (unlike inevitable failure in Taiwan where natives and colonizers are “on the same level”








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