100 years since Treaty of Shimonoseki Asia's first independent republic

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The date 17 April 1995 marked the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, in which China ceded its sovereignty over Taiwan in perpetuity. The Treaty was signed in April 1895, at the end of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, in which the modernized Japanese imperial army defeated the antiquated Chinese Ching dynasty army.

For the people in Taiwan, the Shimonoseki Treaty is a significant event, because it marks a major milestone in Taiwan's evolution towards an independent nation state. In fact, shortly after the 1895 Treaty, a group of leading Taiwanese, aided by rebellious Ching dynasty officials, declared the formation of the Taiwan Republic, Asia's first independent republic.

However, the Taiwan Republic was short-lived: Japanese imperial troops crushed the movement within several months. This ushered in half century of Japanese rule, which only ended at the end of World War II. During this period, Taiwan was an integral part of the Japanese Empire.

At the time of the Shimonoseki Treaty, China's claim on Taiwan was tenuous at best: only a few years earlier, in 1887, the Ching dynasty -- fearing Japanese expansion towards the south -- had declared the island a province of the Manchu Empire. Before that time, Taiwan had been a loose lying area, inhabited by aborigines, pirates and some traders, and had not been formally incorporated in any political entity since the period of Dutch rule (1624-1662).

"Goodbye to China" demonstration

Thus, the Shimonoseki Treaty holds symbolic significance for the Taiwanese, and to commemorate the event, the Taiwan Association of University Professors organized a "Farewell to China" march in downtown Taipei on 16 April 1995.

More than 10,000 independence supporters participated in the event. They wore T-shirts printed with Chinese characters saying "Farewell to China", and carried banners, calling for "Taiwan membership in the United...