Sino-Japanese Ties Still Chilly 1 Yr. After Kyoto Dorm Ruling


OSAKA — One year to the day after a court ruling here denied Chinese ownership of a student dormitory in Kyoto, Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations remain chilly.

“This problem was caused by Japan,” Zheng Guoshi, Chinese consul general in Osaka, said in a recent interview. “The fault in taking so long to resolve it does not lie with the Chinese government.”

As Zheng sees it, the Osaka High Court’s decision last Feb. 26, in recognizing Taiwan as the legal owner of the Kokaryo dorm in Kyoto, was a political insult to China.

“It means that Japan admitted the existence of two Chinas,” Zheng said. “Since then it has become a serious political problem.”

Although Taiwan originally bought the building from Japan more than 35 years ago, only pro-Beijing Chinese students live there now.

In the last year the issue has been taken up by the highest levels of the Chinese government, including leader Deng Xiaoping.

Chinese officials claim the court ruling blatantly disregards a 1972 agreement in which Japan cut diplomatic ties with Taipei and recognized Beijing as the only legitimate government of China.

The 1978 Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship was also ignored by the court, Chinese officials say.

According to Zheng, there is only one way to solve the matter.

“The Japanese court system should follow the rules set by the national government,” he said. “It’s common sense in an international relationship.”

Separation of the judicial, executive and legislative government branches leaves Japanese officials cautious about directly interceding in the case, which is pending before the Supreme Court.

The Osaka High Court ruling maintains that Taiwan’s purchase of the Kokaryo building is a valid one, making the dorm exempt from mainland China’s state powers.

The court ruled that the dorm, unlike the embassy or consulates, is not a diplomatic property and that, therefore, the ownership is not affected even by the 1972 switch of the Japanese recognition of China from Taipei to Beijing.

Taiwanese officials in Tokyo declined to comment on the case.

Zheng of the Osaka consulate keeps in close contact with Kokaryo. His district includes Kyoto’s Sakyo Ward, where the five-story dorm is located.

Covered with vines on the outside and slightly run-down inside, the dorm is home to 50 people, most of them students attending nearby Kyoto University.

When the dispute started, 45 were living at the dorm. Eight of them are still living at the dorm. Like the Chinese consul general, Feng Jianchou from Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, who is one of the eight, feels the Osaka court’s decision was a bad one.

“It made things complicated,” says Feng, 62, a former engineering graduate. He remains in Japan for “personal reasons.”

As manager of the dorm, Feng knows the story well.

Taiwan bought the dorm from Japan in 1952 to house its own students. During the 1960s cultural revolution in mainland China, Feng and other pro-Beijing students formed their own group and sought self-governing control of the dormitory.

Taipei later asked the students to sign a lease contract. When it received no response, the Taiwanese government filed a lawsuit in Kyoto District Court in 1967, seeking removal of the students living in the dormitory.

In 1977, 10 years after Taiwan filed its original lawsuit, the Kyoto District Court gave a verdict: The dorm belonged to mainland China.

The case was appealed in 1982 to the Osaka High Court, which ordered the Kyoto District Court to reconsider its ruling. The Kyoto court did, and in February 1986 the decision was reversed and the dormitory returned to Taiwan.

In the appeal by China one year ago today, the Osaka High Court backed the lower court ruling in Taiwan’s favor. The Chinese government now awaits a final decision from Japan’s Supreme Court.

Wang Tienming, 44, chairman of a self-appointed student committee overlooking the dorm’s activities, holds Japan completely accountable for the diplomatic strains that followed last year’s court case.

“If the Chinese government tries to solve this itself, it is allowing Japan to escape from its responsibility,” he said.

Consul General Zheng looks to the administration of [Japanese] Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita for a resolution.

“We hope that the Takeshita government will solve this as soon as possible.”

According to Zheng, while Takeshita acknowledges prior Sino-Japanese diplomatic agreements, “I don’t think he knows exactly what measures to take in solving this.”

Lin Yupin, 25, agrees.

Lin, a Kyoto University agricultural engineering student and one-year dorm resident, expects little or no action from the new prime minister.

Thirty-six years have passed since the dispute arose. With Japan-China diplomatic relations still touchy after last year’s Osaka High Court decision, Lin predicts the Kokaryo dormitory issue will not be settled anytime soon.

“Maybe in 20 or 30 years,” he says, “the younger generation will solve this problem. I think so.”