Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 8 News List

US should remember Taiwan is a democracy

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

Recent discussion on whether the US opposes President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) decision to hold a referendum on issues such as participating in the World Health Organization, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and legislative reform has sparked finger-pointing.

Despite the fact that American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas Paul rejected media reports that he expressed concern about referendums when he met with Chen and that the US State Department reminded both sides of the Taiwan Strait to refrain from any verbal expression that would increase tension, the Chen administration needs to take a major step to rebuild trust by convincing its US counterpart of the rationale, procedure and contents of a referendum.

What messages should the government send to Washington? First, the government should reiterate the importance of the DPP's 1999 "Resolution on Taiwan's Future," which declares that Taiwan is an independent sovereign state whose name is the Republic of China. Any changes regarding this status quo must be collectively determined by the people of Taiwan through a plebiscite. The resolution is by nature a preventive mechanism against any outside attempt to damage the nation's sovereignty.

Second, Chen should empha-sized publicly that he would not hold a referendum to decide independence or reunification. The "five nos," stated in his inaugural speech, remain unchanged. Referendums are consistent with Chen's "five nos," and are a concrete measure to defend the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. Chen should send a special envoy to convey this message to the State Department.

Third, Chen should remind Washington that a referendum is a common tool in Western democracies. It is frequently used to allow the public to directly make a policy decision in order to supplement the short-comings of the representative system. As the Bill Clinton administration once urged Beijing to respect the assent of Taiwanese, there is no legitimate reason for the US to reject such a democratic evolution.

Most importantly, Chen must bring the issue to the international community and emphasize how China has been sabotaging Taiwan's global presence. Beijing wants to make Taiwan's participation in any international organization subject to its approval.

Beijing approved Taiwan's participation in SARS seminars in Malaysia, and also approved of the WHO sending two experts to Taiwan. This kind of tactic is designed to mold the false image that China is Taiwan's mother country. This is a violation of the interests of Taiwan's people who consider Taiwan, the Republic of China, an independent and sovereign country.

In sum, democracy is the core value shared by Taiwan and other democracies. While this country is moving toward advanced democracy by reinforcing people's rights of holding referendums, Beijing has been depriving Hong Kong's residents of freedom of expression and human rights by pushing a national security law.

Leaders in Beijing should learn a lesson from the massive demonstration of over 500,000 Hong Kong residents protesting against Beijing's anti-democratic legislation and demanding the direct election of the chief executive and the opening of universal suffrage.

If Beijing were to treat Taiwan so badly, without taking into account the extent to which democratic values have been rooted in this island, the people here would fight back with even greater determination.

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