PARIS — A French court has stirred diplomatic tensions by recognizing Taiwan’s right to make its case in a legal dispute despite Paris not having recognized it as independent, under a ruling revealed Wednesday.
The Taipei government has been involved in a battle with Beijing over ownership of a patch of land on Tahiti, in French Polynesia, for more than 30 years and the case has now been transferred to the appeals court in Paris.
Last week, in an interim judgement, the court ruled that Taiwan’s case could be heard “independent of the diplomatic situation” even given Taipei’s status as “a Chinese state not recognized by the international community”.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and is sensitive to any moves towards recognizing its independence. Most countries, including France, recognize only China while also maintaining discreet ties to Taipei.
Taipei, which calls its government the “Republic of China,” has not declared independence from Beijing, “The People’s Republic of China,” but the island has enjoyed total de facto autonomy since 1949.
The Taipei government’s lawyer on Wednesday welcomed the French ruling.
“This decision formalizes the recognition of Taiwan by the French judicial authorities,” Guillaume Selnet said. “If Taiwan can play a judicial role, it follows that the Republic of China must exist.”
Beijing’s lawyer, Francois Froment-Meurice, said he would appeal the ruling, which he ascribed to the judges’ “stupidity” and complained that the appeals court had displayed a “worrying judicial mediocrity”.
French foreign ministry spokesman Eris Chevallier told AFP that he could not comment on a judicial decision.
France has recognized the People Republic of China and its Beijing government since 1964 and does not acknowledge Taiwan as independent.
China built a consulate on a patch of land in Papeete, the capital of the French Polynesian island of Tahiti in 1946. Taipei and Beijing have since disputed ownership of the property in a legal battle staing back to 1978.