Maoman is right to point out that the right of nations or peoples to self-determination does not equal independence. Self-determination is an exercise of the freedom of choice. Obviously, if the only outcome allowed is independence, then there is no self-determination. Self-determination must be the right to choose whether to be independent or not.
But it gets more complicated. When we talk about the right of nations to self-determination, whose right to decide are we talking about? In the case of Tibet, for example, would it be the former rulers, the serf-owning class, including the Dalai Lama, or the mass of the people, the majority of whom used to be serfs? Clearly, under the feudal system in Tibet, the serfs could not have had any say in the matter, since they had no democratic rights whatsoever.
Moreover, if the right of self-determination applies to “nations” or “peoples,” then who is going to decide what constitutes a “nation” or a “people?” Stalin had a go, but he is not usually considered to be a model for handling ethnic and national problems. Any other definitions?
Irish nationalists insist on the right of determination for the Irish people as a whole, on the grounds that Ireland is a nation, and Northern Ireland is not. On the other hand, the British insist that Northern Ireland must be taken as a separate unit in the decision process, creating the so-called “loyalist veto.”[color=red]*[/color] China would certainly be of the opinion that Taiwan, like Northern Ireland, is not a nation in itself, but a part of the Chinese nation (Zhonghua minzu,) and that the right to self-determination does not, therefore, apply to Taiwan. Since China is strong and Taiwan is weak, China’s opinion on the matter is likely to prevail.
[color=red]*[/color]For an interesting discussion of the principle of self-determination in relation to Northern Ireland, have a look at [i][url=http://www.lilt.ilstu.edu/critique/Fall2001Docs/tdonnelly.htm]Northern Irish unionism: a Reconsideration of the Unionists