Sat, Jul 13, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Limiting referendums might help save Taiwan

By Lin Ting-ying 林廷穎

On June 17, the legislature, where the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds a comfortable majority, passed amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法).

The main effect of the changes is that from 2021, referendums are to be held once every two years on the fourth Saturday of August instead of on the same day as a national election, while they also grant the right to propose laws to be considered by city or county councils, and to amend or abolish local government-level autonomous acts, and the threshold for initiation of referendums has been lowered.

Objections have been voiced within the pro-independence political camp, with critics accusing the DPP of stifling direct democracy by using procedural means to prevent people from exercising their right to referendums.

China’s “united front” strategy is to use inducements to sow division. It seeks to make people hate and distance themselves from others with whom they have common interests and to whom they should logically be close, while ignoring real threats. It might even induce them to make the mistake of becoming close to people and groups who have ill intentions toward them.

This dismantles defenses of groups who are targets of the “united front” strategy and makes them less united and coherent.

Taiwanese independence supporters who despise President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the DPP because the amendments decoupled referendums from general elections might have fallen into the “united front” trap.

The DPP was probably right to decouple referendums and general elections within the established system of the Republic of China. It was the right thing to do, because most people in Taiwan are still indoctrinated, seeing themselves as “Chinese stranded on Taiwan.”

Due to the “Chinese colonialism” factor, Taiwan’s education system and media are mostly in the hands of people who believe in a “greater China.”

Another serious problem is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been burrowing like termites into the foundations of Taiwanese society. Signs of this activity can be seen in schools, local communities, farmers’ and fishers’ associations, Taoist and Buddhist temples, and even organized crime.

Consequently, people who believe that they are “Chinese stranded on Taiwan” generally have a shallow understanding of politics, economic affairs and the vagaries of international affairs.

As they cannot see the context that lies beneath the surface, they are easily lured by the short-term, minor inducements offered by China’s strategy. They are easily misled by fabricated and biased information they see and hear, and by the prejudiced view of the DPP and the Taiwanese independence movement in general that they have picked up from long-term inculcation by the education system and the media.

This might lead them to make choices that benefit the CCP’s aim of invading Taiwan and might hinder the nation’s allies, such as the US and Japan, from intervening in the Taiwan Strait.

Therefore, with the nation not yet fully formed and while the CCP regime has not collapsed under the pressure of economic and technological sanctions, temporarily preventing the normal exercise of people’s right to referendums might actually reduce the possibility of Taiwan taking the worst possible path.

Lin Ting-ying is a former student at National Taiwan University’s department of atmospheric sciences.

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