Taiwan Civil Government, a controversial advocacy group that advocates the removal of the exiled Republic of China from Taiwan¸ is bitterly divided following the November death of founder Roger Lin. The group’s woes began in May 2018 when the Criminal Investigation Bureau raided TCG headquarters in Taoyuan and arrested Lin, his wife Julian, and “Prime Minister” Tsai Tsai-yuan charging them with fraud for purportedly cheating TCG members with false claims of United States support and membership card benefits.
The group has been under much pressure with ongoing police harassment and surveillance, hefty expenses, and in July 2019, the destruction of their headquarters by a ROC wrecking crew. Events in Washington, including the impeachment of Donald Trump, have put a damper on TCG enthusiasm for American assistance to oust the ROC from Taiwan. TCG lobbying and advertising in Washington since Trump’s election has been in the millions of dollars as the group pinned its hope for help on the new president.
The ROC prosecution of the three group leaders has been dragging on in a series of protracted court hearings since the arrests. Initially Roger and Julian Lin were held for five months incommunicado and without bail. Tsai Tsai-yuan, a former White Terror prisoner at the infamous Green Island Prison, was quickly released on a modest bail. Either prosecutors believed Tsai had a lesser role in the alleged fraud or they were wary of imprisoning a former ROC political prisoner. Charges were dropped against Roger Lin after his death but the prosecution of Julian Lin and Tsai continues.
While the trial grinds on the two defendants have parted company. Julian, the widow, has attempted to keep control of her late husband’s organization founded in 2008. Meanwhile, Tsai stepped forward to assume leadership. Things came to a head on November 23 after Tsai paid a visit to a TCG warehouse and purportedly removed computer equipment and files. Julian Lin’s faction calls Tsai a “copy cat” and “usurper.” Tsai’s faction, based in Kaohsiung, now calls itself Taiwan Civil Government 3.0 to indicate a reformed organization. Tsai’s supporters call Julian the “Black Widow” and “scammer.”
Besides the name-calling and insults on social media, there have been demands for letters of repentance and a January 31 deadline to reapply for membership. The bitterness of the two sides resembles the raw emotions of a family feud which undoubtedly pleases ROC prosecutors.
With all the troubles, a million dollar bill from Washington lobbyist Neil Hare went unpaid and Hare dropped TCG from his portfolio of clients. However, the May 2018 arrests had all but stopped headway in Washington where Julian Lin had scored a private meeting with Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and was set to meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Now with Trump preoccupied with saving his presidency TCG is not likely to get much help from the White House.
The ROC has occupied Taiwan since the end of World War II when the United States imposed Chiang Kai-shek’s troops on the island. However, the formal end of the war with Japan left Taiwan’s sovereignty unresolved at the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty. Japan renounced all claim to Taiwan, then called Formosa, but the treaty did not specify the future status. The United States has used the ambiguity to keep the People’s Republic of China from invading the island to defeat the exiled Chinese government.
Japan is another country, besides the United States, with a possible role in resolution of Taiwan’s sovereignty. While TCG spent millions in Washington to influence the United States the group has not ignored Japan and has for years made regular trips to Japan to honor the Emperor and wave the TCG flag. In October, a 140 member delegation made the pilgrimage. Now, an American visitor, attorney Charles Camp, signals that Julian Lin’s faction is considering litigation involving Japan.
After the United States installed the ROC on Formosa the exiled regime issued the Nationality Act depriving island residents of their Japanese citizenship. TCG challenged the ROC law in the United States District of Columbia federal court with a lawsuit, Roger & Julian Lin vs. Republic of China & United States. Camp was the lawyer who litigated the case and found a friendly court despite losing the case. The United States District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a decision in 2016. The case was dismissed for several reasons, not the least of which was timeliness.
“The statute of limitations for common-law tort is three years. The Republic of China issued the challenged decrees in 1946. Plaintiffs’ 2015 complaint is more than sixty years too late.”
However, another reason for dismissal suggests that the door to the courtroom may not be all the way closed. The court ruled, “Plaintiffs’ injury can only be addressed by foreign nations not before the court.” While it is not clear which foreign nations the court was referring to, clearly Japan would be one of them. If Camp can figure a way to get past the time deadline issue he may have another day in court by bringing in Japan as a defendant nation.
Tsai Tsai-yuan is also tilting Taiwan Civil Government 3.0 toward Japan. Tsai was unable to travel to Japan with the October delegation because of his ongoing fraud trial but he did see them off at the airport. At the New Year celebration of his faction in Kaohsiung there was a definite Japanese flavor with a number of the women abandoning their trademark black suits for kimonos. Tsai has been busy seeking an official connection with TCG 3.0 and the Japanese government pursuing a diplomatic approach rather than litigation.
Taiwan Civil Government has shown amazing resiliency and stamina in the last two years battling the ROC but has never faced such a divisive internal struggle. While most Taiwanese ignore TCG or believe distorted media accounts of the group, those that follow the organization realize that it is now facing its biggest challenge.