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2022/9/19
Presbyterian Connection newspaper: The PCC’s Policy on Taiwan, 1996
Author/ By the Rev. Peter Bush, History Committee

In recent months, the Chinese government has strongly reasserted its claim that Taiwan is not an independent country, but rather is a province of China. The Chinese government has backed up those words with military exercises and fighter jets flying on the edge of Taiwanese airspace. This is not new: in 1995–1996 the Chinese government engaged in similar actions. The Presbyterian Church in Canada, at that time, through the General Assembly, addressed the question of Taiwan’s independence as a nation.

At the General Assembly held at the University of Waterloo in June 1995, the Rev. Michael Tai, of Parkview Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon, introduced an additional motion to the report of the International Affairs Committee. It read: “…that greetings be sent to the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan expressing our [PCC] support for the right of Taiwanese people to advocate independence and to determine their own future.” The motion was adopted.

This recommendation came some nine months before the first democratic presidential election was scheduled to take place in Taiwan on March 23, 1996. Having a democratically elected government on the island, which China considered to be a renegade province of China, was not welcomed by the Communist Party of China. Michael Tai had brought this matter to the floor of the Assembly. Originally from Taiwan, he was aware both of the threats being made by China and of the deep connection between the PCC and the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT).

In the months leading up to the March 1996 election, the International Affairs Committee of the church sought to balance the competing voices of partners in Taiwan and partners in China. As the committee said clearly in its report to the 1996 General Assembly of the PCC, “The PCT’s enthusiasm for independence is not shared by the PCT’s siblings in the China Christian Council (CCC). On the issue of Taiwan, the CCC’s position is that ‘Taiwan always has been and always will be a part of China.’”

The PCC sought to find a way through these competing voices, both of which were partners of the Canadian church. The PCC was forced to navigate a way through this complex international context. The PCC was being asked to respond not only to the request from the PCT to recognize the independence of Taiwan from China, but also to support the right of the PCT and other Taiwanese denominations to have full standing in ecumenical contexts like the World Council of Churches.

All of this was brought into sharp focus by China’s “increasing military intimidation of its neighbours.” In the weeks leading up to the 1996 presidential elections, China massed as many as 400,000 troops of the People’s Liberation Army in the coastal region facing Taiwan. Every day for a month, China launched missiles over the waters of the Taiwan Straits.

The Assembly adopted a statement on “The Presbyterian Church in Canada and its Partners in Taiwan and China” which, in part, read:

“1. The PCC has a long-standing, valued relationship with both the PCT and the CCC. We intend to maintain those relationships, not at any cost, but in a way that is consistent both with our respect for the autonomy and sensitive political situations of our partners and with our Church’s expressed commitment to justice, human rights and the growth and nurture of our partner churches…

“3. The PCC upholds the right of populations in de facto independent political entities to determine for themselves the political and social systems under which they will live.

“4. The PCT is committed to the principle of self-determination for the people of Taiwan and is working hard to achieve independent status for Taiwan in the family of nations. The PCT is also taking every opportunity to consolidate its position as an independent, autonomous Church within the worldwide ecumenical community…

“5. The push for Taiwan’s independence brings the PCT hard up against the CCC’s position (and the People’s Republic of China’s position) that Taiwan always has been and always will be a part of China and that the matter of Taiwan’s independence is not even open for discussion…

“8. …We have never officially endorsed political independence for Taiwan, but we have consistently upheld the right of the people of Taiwan to freedom of speech including the right to advocate independence.”

The 1996 General Assembly sent greetings to both the China Christian Council and the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and adopted, “That the Church’s policy on Taiwan in the above statement be affirmed.” In the end the church walked a narrow line, upholding the right of the people of Taiwan, including the PCT, to “advocate independence” from China, the church did that without endorsing the political independence of Taiwan.

Note: Quoted material from A&P, 1995, p. 72 and A&P, 1996, pp. 290–292.

SOURCE>Presbyterian Connection

Download:
PC_Fall2022.pdf
gao_acts_and_proceedings_1995.pdf
gao_acts_and_proceedings_1996.pdf

Submitted by:普世
 
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