Sat, Sep 11, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Nation must clarify goals to world

By Hsu Szu-chien徐斯儉

On the eve of the last typhoon the Legislative Yuan passed four major constitutional amendment bills, including a reduction of the number of seats in the legislature, the establishment of the single member district, two-vote system, the abolition of the National Assembly and the inclusion of the referendum into the Constitution.

Irrespective of how this was actually achieved, these bills were passed with the support of all major parties. Although the jubilation of some was tempered by the disappointment of others, the most important thing here is for the government to make clear to the international community -- and especially China -- the international significance of these amendments.

By "international significance," I am referring in particular to the process of constitutional reform and the inclusion of the referendum. Key here is the possibility that the amendments are surreptitiously paving the way for a legal basis for Taiwanese independence.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) have both recently called on Taiwan to restrain itself and not to anger China by making any moves towards independence, saying that in such an event they would not support Taiwan. From their words, one would think that Taiwan had been threatening to make such a bid of late.

In fact, they made no mention of what exactly Taiwan had done to prompt their remarks. It does seem that it had little to do with what they have actually observed, and more to do with pressure from China, which accuses Taiwan of seeking independence. This pressure merely serves to increase tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

There is probably no better example of this than the speech given by Wang Zaixi (王在希), vice director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, at the opening of the conference on the "Peaceful Unification of China," held in Hong Kong on Aug. 6. In his speech, Wang said that the administration of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is refusing to give up the idea of constitutional reform as a step in the process of establishing a legal basis for Taiwanese independence, and has also refused to give up its timetable for this independence.

He went on to say that on the surface, the "authorities" of Taiwan have recently been less vocal in promoting independence and separation from China, and have been less blatant in their actions. They have, however, allowed Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to represent them in their insistence on independence, pushed for the referendum and a new constitution and publicly backed the "Action for a Taiwanese Constitution" campaign.

He said that recently, the Taiwanese "authorities" -- disregarding the tide of public sentiment -- have insisted on major acquisitions of advanced weapons from the US and continued their so-called pragmatic diplomacy. Despite the rhetoric, there is still no clear indication of what actually constitutes maneuvering into a position of creating a legal basis for independence.

Nevertheless, there is a need for the international community to have a better understanding of these constitutional amendment bills. The Beijing-based China News Service has already published an article saying that despite their compromise on the issue of giving the people more say in constitutional reform, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was able to make the holding of referenda constitutional, something that they have been seeking ever since the party was established.

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