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Lin v. United States

March 18, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


In this case, the Plaintiffs, residents of Taiwan and the Taiwan Nation Party, ask the Court to interpret treaties, statutes, and other legislative and executive pronouncements to determine to what extent the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"),*fn1 the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"),*fn2 and the United States Constitution apply to them. The United States moves to dismiss, arguing that the suit presents a non-justiciable political question and that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem.") [Dkt. #17].


A short history lesson is provided by the Complaint. See Am. Compl. [Dkt. #16]. In 1894, Japan and China engaged in the Sino-Japanese War in which Japan defeated China. Am. Compl. ¶ 26. Both governments signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895. Id. ¶ 27. Pursuant to the Treaty, China ceded Taiwan (then known as Formosa) to Japan in perpetuity and full sovereignty. Id. ¶ 28.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and as a result the United States Congress issued a Declaration of War on December 8. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. After an intense war, Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945. Japanese representatives signed the Instrument of Surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay. Id. ¶ 31. On that same day, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers,*fn3 issued General Order No. 1, ordering the "senior Japanese commanders and all ground, sea, air and auxiliary forces within . . . Formosa" to "surrender to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek." Id. ¶ 32; see also Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers General Order No. 1, Sept. 2, 1945, J.C.S. 1467/2.

According to the Complaint, "[p]ursuant to the General Order No. 1, Chiang Kai-shek, a military and political leader of the [Republic of China ("ROC")], was a 'representative of the Allied Powers empowered to accept surrender[]'" of the Japanese forces. Am Compl. ¶ 32. On October 25, 1945, Chiang Kai-shek's representative in Taiwan accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces there, although "[t]he surrender and repatriation of the Japanese forces in Taiwan (Formosa) was carried out with substantial assistance of the United States armed forces." Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

On September 8, 1951, the Allied Powers and Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty ("SFPT"), which entered into force on April 28, 1952. Id. ¶ 37. Article 2(b) of the SFPT provided, "Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores." Id. ¶ 38; see also Treaty of Peace with Japan, art. 2(b), Sept. 8, 1951, 136 U.N.T.S. 46 (entered into force Apr. 28, 1952). However, the SFPT did not indicate to whom sovereignty over Taiwan was to be transferred. See Am. Compl. ¶ 39. The Complaint alleges that "[n]either the ROC government, which occupied the island of Taiwan (Formosa) as agent for the 'principal occupying Power,'*fn4 nor the government of the Peoples' Republic of China ("PRC"), which controlled mainland China, signed, ratified, or adhered to the SFPT." Id. ¶ 41. "The parties to the SFPT chose not to give "any right, title [or] claim to Formosa and the Pescadores" to China. Id. ¶ 44.

According to the Plaintiffs, the decision not to cede Formosa to China was a considered judgment.

Prior drafts of Article 2(b) show that the Allied Powers originally intended to give China sovereignty over Taiwan (Formosa), but later affirmatively changed their intention. The drafts dated August 5, 1947, and January 8, 1948, provided: "Japan hereby cedes to China in full sovereignty the island of Taiwan (Formosa) and adjacent minor islands[.]" By contrast, the final draft of the SFPT did not transfer "full sovereignty" in Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands from Japan to China.

Id. ¶ 45. Instead, Article 23 designated the United States as "the principal occupying Power," with the government of the ROC as its agent. Id. ¶¶ 46-47.

A separate Treaty of Peace between the ROC and Japan, signed on April 28, 1952 and entered into force on August 5, 1952 (the "Treaty of Taipei"), also did not transfer sovereignty over Taiwan from Japan to China. Id. ¶ 48. It merely recognized that "Japan has renounced all right, title and claim to Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (the Pescadores)." Id.; see also Treaty of Peace with Japan, Apr. 28, 1952, R.O.C.-Japan, 163 U.N.T.S. 38 (entered into force Aug. 5, 1952).

In the aftermath of the SFPT, the governments of the leading allies interpreted the SFPT to mean that no state acquired sovereignty over Taiwan (Formosa) and title to its territory. For example, United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told the Senate in December 1954, "[the] [sic] technical sovereignty over Formosa and the Pescadores has never been settled. That is because the Japanese peace treaty merely involves a renunciation by Japan of its right and title to these islands. But the future title is not determined by the Japanese peace treaty, nor is it determined by the peace treaty which was concluded between the [ROC] and Japan." Likewise, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told the British House of Commons, "under the Peace Treaty of April, 1952, Japan formally renounced all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores; but again this did not operate as a transfer to Chinese sovereignty, whether to the [PRC] or to the [ROC]. Formosa and the Pescadores are therefore, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, territory the de jure sovereignty over which is uncertain or undet[er]mined." Similarly, in 1964, President Georges Pompidou (then Premier of France) stated that "Formosa (Taiwan) was detached from Japan, but it was not attached to anyone" under the SFPT.

Am. Compl. ¶ 49. Further, the Complaint alleges that "[i]n 1955, United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles confirmed that the basis for ROC's presence in Taiwan was that 'in 1945, the [ROC] was entrusted with authority over [Formosa and the Pescadores]' and 'General Chiang [Kaishek] was merely asked to administer [Formosa and the Pescadores] for the Allied . . . [P]owers pending a final decision as to their ownership.'" Id. ¶ 50.

The Plaintiffs allege that this state of affairs has never changed: the United States remains the principal occupying Power, "holding sovereignty over Taiwan and title to its territory in trust for the benefit of the Taiwanese people," id. ¶ 56; the Taiwanese people have never declared their own sovereignty or formed their own government, id. ¶ 60; no one in the international community, including the United Nations and the United States, recognizes Taiwan as an independent state, id. ¶¶ 61-63; under the Taiwan Relations Act ("TRA") of 1979, 22 U.S.C. §§ 3301-3316 (2006), "the people of the United States" maintain "commercial, cultural, and other relations" with the "people of Taiwan,"*fn5 because "the future of Taiwan" is still not "determined,"*fn6 Id. ΒΆΒΆ 59 & 64; in July 1982, the United States gave "Six Assurances" to Taiwan, including that it "would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan," ...

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