For all intents and purposes, Taiwan functions as an independent nation. It has a defined territory and population, and a sovereign government not under the jurisdiction of any foreign power. However, this is from a purely territorial perspective. Viewed from a political perspective, it is another matter entirely. The introductory paragraph of the Additional Articles of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution states:
“To meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification, the following articles of the ROC Constitution are added or amended to the ROC Constitution in accordance with Article 27, Paragraph 1, Item 3; and Article 174, Item 1.”
The Constitution clearly states that Taiwan and China are “one country, two regions” and for this reason, Taiwan is not viewed as a “normalized” nation.
Now that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in office and in full control of the legislature, members of the pro-independence camp hope that the DPP is able to normalize the status of Taiwan, while some legislators have proposed that the Constitution be amended to remove references to “one country, two regions.”
However, the pan-green camp believes amending the Constitution is a waste of time, since Article 12 of the Additional Articles states:
“Amendment of the Constitution shall be initiated upon the proposal of one-fourth of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, passed by at least three-fourths of the members present at a meeting attended by at least three-fourths of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, and sanctioned by electors in the free area of the Republic of China at a referendum held upon expiration of a six-month period of public announcement of the proposal, wherein the number of valid votes in favor exceeds one-half of the total number of electors.”
The DPP has more than half of the seats in the Legislative Yuan, yet a recent draft bill to revise the Constitution and remove the phrase “one country, two regions” did not gain the support of one-fourth of the house’s legislators. This demonstrates that even the DPP legislative caucus does not unanimously support such an amendment to the Constitution.
There is nothing surprising about this, as the government must consider international relations. Even if the government were to brush aside China’s reaction, it could not afford to ignore the US. If the government proposed normalizing the nation, the US would instantly brand President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her administration as “troublemakers.”
The road to amending the Constitution requires consent of the legislature and as the government would not want to play the role of a “troublemaker,” civic power is the only way to achieve normalization of the nation. An opposition party can seek normalization, because it does not represent the will of the government, and there would be no danger of conflict with the US.
The public’s ability to hold a referendum on the Constitution is constrained by the Referendum Act (公投法).
Article 2 of the act states that although the public has the right to vote in a referendum on changes to the Constitution or to the law, it does not have the right to initiate a referendum. Therefore, Article 2 of the act must be amended to give the public the power to initiate a referendum on constitutional issues, significant policies and changes to the law.
All that the DPP needs to do is amend Article 2 of the act so that opposition parties and the pan-green camp can initiate a petition and complete the amendment of the Constitution, thereby normalizing Taiwan’s status as a sovereign nation.
Chen Mao-hsiung is a retired National Sun Yat-sen University professor and chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Taiwanese Security.
Translated by Edward Jones
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