Taiwan has never seen an election race as tight as this one. With four major campaign platforms -- strengthening democratization, rectifying the name of Taiwan, upholding referendum rights and writing a new constitution -- the DPP is giving Taiwan's people a wake-up call with regard to national identity.
The KMT condemns President Chen Shui-bian (
The so-called debate over history is over the issue of whether Taiwan belongs to China. The people of Taiwan have been under the rule of the Dutch and Spanish, beginning about 10 generations ago, until the Ching Dynasty ceded Taiwan permanently to Japan. Japan then ruled Taiwan for 50 years.
ILLUSTRATION MOUNTAIN PEOPLE
It is the perception of the Taiwanese people with a nativization consciousness that the real political bondage of Taiwan began on Oct. 17, 1945. After Japan's defeat in World War II, the Chinese National Party (KMT) government sailed to Taiwan on US naval vessels, protected by accompanying US carriers, and then landed at Keelung. With the consent of the top military commander of the US in Far East, the Japanese armed forces in Taiwan surrendered to Chiang Kai-shek (
In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party took over China, declaring the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) with Beijing as the capital. In December of that same year, Chiang declared Taipei as the temporary capital of the ROC government headed by the KMT. On June 27, 1950, the US president declared that the action of the US navy in sailing into Taiwanese waters and engaging in military attacks violated the UN Charter.
San Francisco treaty
During this time, the Allies and Japan negotiated a peace treaty. Neither the KMT in Taiwan nor the communists in Beijing were invited to take part in the peace conference in San Francisco in 1950. The peace treaty resulting from the conference stated that Japan officially relinquished sovereignty over Taiwan and Penghu. However, nothing was said about officially transferring that sovereignty to either the KMT government or the Chinese communist government. In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek simply accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces in Taiwan on the behalf of the Allies. Moreover, in 1950, the US president also declared that the determination of the future status of Taiwan must await restoration of peace in the Pacific or a decision by the UN. So, the sovereignty issue of Taiwan remained undecided. It is an indisputable fact about the legal status of Taiwan.
The myth embraced by the PRC -- that Taiwan is part of China -- is a lie. The PRC has not ruled Taiwan for one day. It is not uncommon for China to make this kind of lie. A more recent example, when SARS was spreading to Taiwan and other parts of the world, Beijing lied to the World Health Organization (WHO) that it had already established mechanisms and channels to help Taiwan prevent the spread of the epidemic.
The PRC accepts neither "one China and one Taiwan" nor "two Chinas." In other words, to the PRC, the Republic of China no longer exists. On the other hand, the ROC on Taiwan is not recognized by the international community. The UN and the Allies never did resolve Taiwan's status. Only the people of Taiwan can decide for themselves whether Taiwan is independent from China.
Today, the KMT continues to hold on to the outdated "sacred tablet" of the ROC, believing that this will keep China from attacking Taiwan. But, can doing so truly bring permanent peace and stability to Taiwan? While KMT Chairman Lien Chan (
During the 50 years that the KMT ruled Taiwan, martial law was used during the first 38 years to oppress the Taiwanese people. In the remaining 13 years of its rule, under international pressure, the foundations for democracy and economic development were installed. Chen's election in 2000 meant the end of the entrustment to the KMT. Taiwan is already independent from China.
After his election, Chen declared human rights protection as a fundamental ideal of the country. Consistent with such ideals, the UN should accept the sovereign legal status of Taiwan, and allow the people of Taiwan to proclaim through a democratic manner that Taiwan is independent from China.
The people of Taiwan have decided, in place of the UN and the Allies, their own future and the status of their country. The international community and the UN must recognize Taiwan as a UN member, so as to live up to their principles of humanitarian, peaceful and lawful transfer of power. The US and Japan should also support and recognize the fact that the people of Taiwan have already established a democratic country.
During its rule, the KMT imposed one-party totalitarianism and trampled on human rights. To win the upcoming election, Lien has already confessed these mistakes and made an apology on the behalf of the KMT to the people of Taiwan. Its human rights violations during its military dictatorship and the illegal seizure of assets and properties of the people and the country have made the KMT the richest political party in the world. Moreover, it continues to use this wealth to run the party and buy votes. The assassination of political dissidents during the martial law era has torn apart countless numbers of families and created many more tragedies. The 228 Incident, the Kaohsiung Incident, and the murders of Lin I-hsiung's (
Running under the banner of the "Chinese" Nationalist Party is no different from running on behalf of the PRC, since Lien accepts the "one China" principle and Soong "one country, two systems." This is unforgivable given that, while standing next to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (
As a result of its election defeat in 2000, the KMT became the opposition party, losing executive power yet still holding a legislative majority. In spite of this, the KMT has shown no respect to the president. It has impeded Chen from implementing reforms, constitutional change and democratization. It has taken every opportunity to boycott Chen, and vetoed all efforts to place power in the hands of the people. Akin to the Chinese government, which has no concept of human rights, the KMT continues to give power priority over human rights, saying no to the human rights bill and the proposal to rewrite the constitution. After paralyzing Chen in terms of policy implementation and reforms, they then tease Chen for being incompetent.
Although Chen was popularly elected, the KMT and PFP together hold more than 50 percent of the seats in the legislature. They joined forces in denying the president his powers, as well as verbally attacking him and refusing to work with him. Instead of accepting the change of ruling power pursuant to a democratic mechanism,they resist the DPP, seeing it as taking away and robbing them of their powers. The pan-blue camp is opposing Chen for the sake of opposing him and resorting to sabotage and insults to lessen Chen's chance of re-election.
The central campaign platform of Chen is "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait, incorporating referendum rights into the constitution and economic development. His platform has the support of the public, adding points to his election campaign. Chen understands the popular will and the fact that Taiwan has a bad neighbor on the other side of the Taiwan Strait who is waiting day and night for a chance to engulf Taiwan.
The stability of the cross-strait relationship is tied to the two red lines drawn by the US -- no Taiwan independence and no use of force by China. These conditions are set to maintain peace. However, they have given China the upper hand. While China may not have actually used force yet, it is eagerly building up its arms, putting Taiwan in a disadvantageous position. The US can always keep Taiwan from declaring independence, but it is doubtful whether it can always restrain China from using force against Taiwan.
In view of this, Chen seeks to conduct a defensive referendum to maintain a balance of power between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The intention is to say "no" through a democratic mechanism to China's unreasonable demand of "one country, two systems." Chen's appeal is consistent with the human right ideals of the country and has won the recognition of moderate voters, increasing the popular support of the DPP by about 8 percent.
The US hopes cross-strait dialogue can maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait. This is an impossible dream. China has already set acceptance of the "one China" principle, under which Taiwan would be colonized in the manner of Hong Kong, as a precondition for such dialogue.
The preamble of China's constitution already states that Taiwan is part of China. Once dialogue begins, the sovereign status of Taiwan would soon be lost. According to the UN Charter, human rights and peace depend on self-determination. A nationwide referendum supervised by the UN Security Council is the only way to preserve the dignity of Taiwan's people and the legal sovereign status of Taiwan, as well as to leave behind the ambiguous "one China" principle. Of course, Taiwan is not in a position to accomplish this without the support of the US, Japan and the EU.
To leave behind authoritarian politics, implement the human rights ideals of the country, rectify the name of the country and strengthen the quality of Taiwan's democracy, we must incorporate referendums into a new constitution.
Why does Taiwan need a new constitution? Taiwan is still using a constitution drafted in 1949 in China. The Constitution does not meet the demands and needs of contemporary Taiwan. A constitution drafted more than 50 years ago in another country is ill-suited for Taiwan's democracy. Even the PRC sees the Constitution as waste paper. While efforts were made to amend the Constitution beginning 1987, it is beyond salvaging or adaptation to Taiwan's development. These amendments created the malfunctions in many political mechanisms, leading to ethnic rivalry and political division.
During his meeting with Wen, US President George W. Bush indicated disapproval of Taiwan's move to hold a defensive referendum, which was interpreted by many as hindering further democratization of Taiwan. If reforms and changes are forbidden, the Chen government will immediately become paralyzed. That is what happened over the past three years, with the KMT boycotting Chen's constitutional and political reforms. The US is seemingly helping out Soong and Lien, keeping Chen from re-election.
Political reforms and constitutional reforms are internal issues of Taiwan. The roots of Taiwan's democracy have begun to rot. Chen believes he is able to win the March presidential election because the political and constitutional reforms he advocates will stabilize the internal structural conflicts and contradictions of Taiwan, as well as meet the expectations of the younger generations of voters. The bombshell dropped by Bush in his talk with Wen has damaged Chen's campaign.
The US cannot stop and keep democracy in Taiwan from progressing and moving forward. There is nothing China dislikes more than development of democracy in Taiwan. What is the purpose of prohibiting a change in the status quo? If Taiwan can't even engage in internal reforms and democratic reforms, how can democracy and human rights continue in thrive in Taiwan? The imposition of such a demand on Taiwan will tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, suggesting that the US may be paving the way for Chin to colonize Taiwan
Chen has proposed a defensive referendum and demanded the withdrawal of Chinese missiles. "One country two systems" is China's way of engulfing Taiwan, dwarfing Taiwan and demolishing democracy, which will revive totalitarianism in Taiwan and turn the country into another Hong Kong. The positions of Soong and Lien seem to support such a development. Accepting "one country, two systems" is the equivalent of selling out Taiwan's human rights and democratic values.
Taiwan should insist on expressing the popular will through a democratically conducted referendum. This is a most democratic way to make a point. Moreover, China is not exactly maintaining the status quo. With 496 missiles armed at Taiwan, the US surely understands the threats to security, stability and peace in Taiwan. The EU has long asked that China withdraw the missiles. Yet the US is turning a blind eye to this egregious disruption of the status quo.
Lee Chang-kuei (李長貴) is professor emeritus at National Taiwan University.
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