Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

No kudos to the Frank Hsieh that can say `no'

By Lo Chih-cheng 羅致政

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) acknowledgment that a "one China" framework exists in the Constitution is his version of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "four noes, one without" pledge. It was regrettable, yet unsurprising, that during his trip to the US, Hsieh made his first "no" promise by saying that a referendum on independence isn't necessary.

I am unfortunately preparing myself psychologically for the possibility that Hsieh might come out with other "noes" or "withouts" in the future.

During the DPP's primary debates, when asked whether he would make a promise similar to Chen's to the US, Hsieh stressed that the US is more concerned with sincerity.

Hsieh said that if he says he won't, then he won't, because one can't say one will not do something and then do it.

He said that he would not promise the US anything, because the results of democracy cannot be controlled.

But Hsieh has already said, or promised, that a referendum on independence isn't necessary. This will become an important standard by which the US judges Hsieh's sincerity in the future.

I am concerned that if our leaders are not careful and don't take all factors into account when making promises to the US, then their pledges can become a curse for foreign relations and domestic political reform.

Who decides what defines an "independence referendum" exactly?

The past seven years have proven that every time Taiwan tries to carry out any domestic or foreign reform or works to normalize itself, Washington almost always looks at this kind of action in the broader scope of whether or not Taiwan might violate the "four noes, one without" promise. Sometimes this even leads the US to oppose the reforms. Taiwan has clearly given the US a yardstick with which to set standards for, or even with which to punish, Taiwan.

Even more worrying is that as officials in Beijing push the "one China" fantasy on the international community, Hsieh believes that the "one China" principle is enshrined in the Constitution, while also saying that an independence referendum isn't necessary. As a result, under Hsieh, it would be even harder for Taiwan to shake off the "one China" curse.

Hsieh believes that Taiwan already has de facto statehood. But in the de jure sense, the "one China" framework of the Constitution prevents Taiwan from being a state and even makes it a part of China.

Even though Hsieh advocates changing the irrational "one China" framework, regardless of whether he tries to change it by amending the Constitution or creating a new constitution, either would eventually have to be voted on in a referendum.

The problem is that if China sees a referendum to join the UN under the name "Taiwan" as a disguised independence referendum and the US keeps warning that such a referendum would violate Chen's promise not to change the national title, how could one expect China and the US not to say that trying to take "one China" out of the Constitution wasn't an independence referendum?

If the US did in fact say that the national referendum for such an amendment was an independence referendum, would Hsieh respect his promise to the Taiwanese people and continue to push for the amendment?

Or would he abide by his promise to the US not to push for an independence referendum?

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