Wed, Feb 11, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Chen has will to see referendum through

By Lao Pao 老包

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) plans to hold Taiwan's first referendum on the day of the presidential election. This major democratic occurrence has become a thorn in the side to the blue camp and it has joined up with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in reviling it. Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) even prompted French President Jacques Chirac to condemn the referendum.

The wave of referendum bashing has proved one thing: democracy did not fall from the skies. It has been brought to us by hardworking people with a sense of mission. Over the past decade, Taiwanese society has been influenced by the unification media's constant nihilism. Fewer people have a sense of democratic mission, but, luckily, political leaders such as former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen have not lost their way. They have spent more time considering the great Taiwanese democracy plan.

During his presidency, Lee engineered the re-election of the whole legislature and direct presidential elections, froze the provincial government and scrapped the National Assembly. He also declared the "special state-to-state" model of cross-strait relations. This was Lee's "democratic line."

In addition to his powerful advocacy of "one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait," Chen last year announced "referendum, legislative reform and the drawing up of a new constitution," or Chen's "democratic line," which has had conservative anti-reform groups jumping with rage.

Not a single item in Lee's and Chen's democratic lines escapes China's vilifications. As the CCP rails, Taiwanese unificationist politicians and media dance to China's tune, gradually creating anti-Lee and anti-Chen sentiment.

For example, ever since the referendum was first mentioned, it has been vilified and satirized by the hypocritical unificationist China Times.

Immediately after the CCP started railing against the referendum, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) did the same. Chen was even, inexplicably, called a "criminal caught in the act."

Does a referendum bite? Is democracy a frightful beast? Those afraid of letting the people be in charge are the ones possessed by beasts. Ma used to be the biggest opponent of Lee's democratic line. Now he rants and raves over the referendum plan. Although Ma is not willing to give up his anti-democratic ways, he still wants to enjoy the fruits of democracy. Lien or Soong never supported Lee, they only wanted power that Lee could not give. Now they revile Chen's democratic line, which is only appropriate for someone who sees no shame in being the spokesman of those wanting to restore authoritarianism.

When the founder of the China Times was still alive -- and neither the faction advocating popular election of the president nor the faction advocating election by committee would yield -- it was still capable of neutrality. Now that the founder's son has taken over, there are merciless attacks on Chen's democratic efforts at holding a referendum.

How can such a paper have the nerve to call itself a member of the intelligentsia? If the people really are master, can holding a referendum to show their will be such a bad thing? Such media and politicians would fit in better in China than in Taiwan.

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