President Chen's Opening Address of the 29th Annual Meeting of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations

Published: August 3, 2002
Source: The Office of the President of the Republic of China

The 29th Annual Meeting of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations (WFTA) began today in Tokyo, Japan. President Chen Shui-bian delivered the opening address via live video link from the Presidential Office in Taipei. Taiwanese Association of Japan chairman Lin Chien-liang and WFTA Chairman Kuo Chung-kuo also took advantage of the live video link to introduce the association members and chairpersons in attendance to the president.

The text of President Chen's opening address follows:

Firstly, I would like to convey my congratulations to all of you. Today's 29th Annual Meeting of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations here in Japan demonstrates both the love of overseas Taiwanese for this land of Taiwan and the vigor of Taiwanese associations throughout the world. I have no doubt that the WFTA will forge ahead with new developments and explore new boundaries, working diligently and with devotion for the future of Taiwan.

For many years the WFTA has made important contributions to the advancement of democratic governance, the opening of society, and the protection of human rights in Taiwan. During the dark days and tribulations of the past, it was your sacrifice and noble deeds that kept the flame of Taiwan democracy burning overseas. At the same time, you also continuously aided and supported the Taiwan democracy movement, and spurred the public to seriously consider what lay ahead for Taiwan. In the year 2000, at the threshold of a new century, we finally realized our common dream. We achieved our first peaceful transfer of political power to a new governing party. Through this achievement that fills us with pride, Taiwan has taken its place in the world as a completely free and democratic country.

The WFTA has also contributed considerable efforts over these many years to give the people of Taiwan a voice in the international community in order to safeguard Taiwan's autonomy. You loved Taiwan and did not fear sacrifice. In the past, many were subject to persecution and forced to flee abroad, unable for many long years to return to our homeland. But your efforts have not been wasted, and this price was not paid in vain. The convictions you have long defended—for example, that Taiwan's sovereignty must not be alienated or infringed upon, that the future of Taiwan must be decided by people of Taiwan themselves, and that the interests of Taiwan must come first—have already become mainstream public opinion in Taiwan. Furthermore, these issues have also received widespread attention all over the world.

We must have confidence in ourselves, and we must have confidence in the future of Taiwan. In the past, we did not fear the bullying of hostile powers. We loved Taiwan, our native land, remained committed to going our own way, and finally marched upon the road to freedom and democracy. Today, Taiwan faces China's military threat as well as its attempts to suppress our international activities. We cannot escape from this reality, nor can we harbor any illusions. I am confident that if we stand resolute and united, confident in our own direction, we will again be able to walk our own road and determine our own future. Not only will we be able to open new horizons for the dignity of the Taiwanese people and the security of our nation, but also build a strong foundation for the advancement and prosperity of Taiwanese society.

I would like to once again offer my best wishes of success to this year's annual meeting of the WFTA. I am looking forward to the continued expansion of the federation under the leadership of Chairman Kuo and the enthusiastic participation and support of all members. I am confident that the federation will continue to give Taiwan a voice, raise Taiwan's standing in the world, and expand Taiwan's space in the international arena.

I would like to take a moment here to raise a few points of my own for your consideration:

During the past few days, I have said that we must earnestly consider going our own way, walking our own road, and choosing our own path for Taiwan's future. What does "Taiwan to walk its own road" mean? This is very simple, very clear, and easily understood: Taiwan's own road is Taiwan's road to democracy, Taiwan's road to freedom, Taiwan's road to human rights, and Taiwan's road to peace.

Taiwan is our country, and our country cannot be bullied, downgraded, marginalized, nor treated as a local government. Taiwan is not a part of any other country, nor is it a local government or province of another country. Taiwan can never be another Hong Kong or Macau, because Taiwan has always been a sovereign state. In short, Taiwan and China standing on opposite sides of the Strait, there is one country on each side. This should be clear.

China has never renounced the use of force against Taiwan and continues to attempt to suffocate us internationally. This strains the goodwill of the people of Taiwan. China's insistence on the "one China principle" and "one country, two systems" means a change of the status quo for Taiwan. The decision to change the status quo for Taiwan cannot be made for us by any country, any government, any political party, or any single individual. Only the 23 million people of Taiwan have the right to decide the future, fate, and status of Taiwan. This is our long term ideal and common goal. And should the need arise, how will this decision be made? It will be made by referendum. A referendum is a basic human right, and thus a basic right of the 23 million people of Taiwan, a right that can not be deprived and restricted. I sincerely call upon and encourage everyone to give thought about the importance and urgency of initiating a referendum legislation.

In closing, I would like to convey to the assembled friends and compatriots my best wishes for your good health and future success.