It is a sad day when one begins to question whether this administration has ever actually read the Constitution. You might have heard about it. It is the document that details what the government can and cannot do, and serves as this nation’s highest legal authority.
Because if they had, hypothetically speaking, read the document, they might have been left scratching their heads after failing to find the city of Nanjing in its articles. And then they might have been left even more confused after failing to find a single article that mentions where the capital of the ROC should or should not be.
This failure is because such an article does not exist. It was not present in the constitution adopted by the National Assembly in 1946. It was not present when the document came into force the year after. And it especially was not present in any of the seven revisions since.
In fact, the only time such a reference did appear was under Article 9 of a 1936 draft of the constitution text. The very same draft that explicitly does not mention Taiwan as being part of the ROC.
And so with this in mind, it quickly becomes apparent that Ministry of Education officials were either misinformed, mistaken, or misguided when they sent a letter to high schools requiring them to only purchase textbooks printed “correctly” with Nanjing as the capital of the ROC last week.
However, such an inference about the ROC capital also appears to be part of a trend, deliberate or otherwise, to cast parts of the constitution in support of this administration’s “one China” policy, even when such bases fail to exist.
In October, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told a Taiwanese delegation to China that there was a constitutional basis behind his position that China continues to remain part of ROC territory.
Yet given the chance, the president might also be pressed to explain how he arrived at his inference, given that the Council of Grand Justices, the highest legal authority for constitutional questions, failed to arrive at the same conclusion under Interpretation No. 392.
All of this is, of course, quite troubling. Especially as the administration’s arguments rely on a public that remains ignorant of a document that is commonly seen as outdated and irrelevant.
And so a better use of education resources perhaps would have been instead to ask publishers to better educate students on the Constitution, so that absurd misunderstandings, like the one made earlier this week, do not take place again.
Vincent Chao is a researcher at the Thinking Taiwan Foundation.