Wed, Apr 07, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Youthful protesters seem misguided

Students from National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, Fu Jen Catholic University and other schools recently began to take part in the post-election protests led by the pan-blue camp. Claiming to be free of political bias, more than a dozen of these students began a sit-in and hunger strike last Friday at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.

The hunger strikers have made five proposals. First, they want President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to apologize for the political chaos of the past four years. Second, an independent investigation -- formed by a special law -- must be conducted into the assassination attempt on Chen and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). Third, an ethnic-equality committee should be established. Fourth, Chen should apologize for manipulating the media, undermining government neutrality and violating the constitutional spirit. Fifth, Chen should promise to form a coalition government and the Cabinet should be made up by the majority party in the legislature after the year-end legislative elections.

The students, however, seem to have no idea of how the government works -- or much knowledge of recent political history. The president is in a position of power, but he is not all-powerful.

For example, take the students' appeal for a Cabinet made up of the party with a legislative majority. Such a significant change to the government system would require a fundamental revision of the Constitution. Such power lies in the hands of the legislature, not the president. Since it is the pan-blue camp that claims a legislative majority, the students should be making this demand to Lien and Soong, not Chen.  

As for forming a coalition government, Chen attempted to do that in his first term. He appointed the KMT's Tang Fei (唐飛) as a premier and the New Party's Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to head the Environmental Protection Administration. He tried to get KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) to chair the Ministry of Economic Affairs and he wanted KMT Vice Chairman Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) to attend an APEC meeting as his representative. But those invitations were turned down due to Lien's objections. Other opposition politicians also refused to serve in the Democratic Progressive Party government. Again, who the students should be petitioning is quite obvious.

The students appear to be, excuse the phrase, jumping the gun in their demand for a commission to investigate the March 19 shooting. World-renowned forensics expert Henry Lee (李昌鈺) and his team are already investigating the case and Lee is considered pro-blue. Why don't the students calmly wait for the results of his probe and then see if they have any complaints?

As for their claims to be politically neutral, at least three of the students leading the hunger strike are members of either the KMT or the PFP. Some of them have said that they would withdraw from their parties right away to show their neutrality. But their actions have understandably raised suspicions about whether one or more political parties are behind the students' protest, and has damaged the credibility of the protesters.

The focus of the students' complaints is largely Chen, yet much of what they ask for is beyond the reach of his authority. Therefore, as they continue their hunger strike, one would hope they could come up with more feasible appeals and come clean about their personal political stances. Trying to hide their political connections does a great disservice to their ambitions. It is commendable that university students want to debate government structure and policy -- but they should not allow themselves to become pawns in political power struggles.

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