Ma upending constitutional process

By Christian Fan Jiang 范姜提昂  / 

Sun, Feb 09, 2014 - Page 8

The rape of Taiwan’s history curriculum by a gang of villains headed by Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) is no isolated incident. The government’s determination to push ahead with this plan, come what may, has a quid pro quo connection with the imminent meeting between Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), which is scheduled to take place in Nanjing, China, on Tuesday.

De-Taiwanization and the construction of a Chinese identity have long been seen as the strategic basis for the “great task of unification.”

Wang wants to succeed in pushing through changes in Taiwan’s history curriculum as a way of repaying the “imperial favor” that Beijing bestowed upon him in August and October last year, when it consented to his meetings with Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui (崔世安) and Zhang, using his official title, and gave the go-ahead for the Nanjing meeting.

Since President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) public approval rating sank to a miserable 9 percent last year, his administration has been proceeding at startling speed with its program of betrayal.

While visiting other countries last month, Ma suggested that he would like to have a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and he was almost visibly drooling at the prospect.

The purpose of all this is to sign a peace agreement with the Chinese communists.

It should be noted that those who support eventual unification of Taiwan and China see a peace agreement as very important because it would be a constitutional document that would put into practice the theory of “one China, three constitutions” that some pro-unification figures have proposed and achieve their aim of an irreversible and substantial step toward unification.

It is therefore essential that Taiwan’s legislature keep a close eye on everything that this administration is doing, from beginning to end.

Of course, Ma will do whatever he can to prevent that.

When he was in Honduras at the end of last month, Ma responded to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) call to set up a mechanism for legislative oversight of cross-strait talks by bluntly refusing it in preposterous terms.

Ma said that according to the Constitution, cross-strait talks are the prerogative of the executive arm of government, not the legislature.

He said that as far as he was concerned, oversight meant holding public hearings so that members of the public could stay informed while at the same time informing the legislature about the progress of cross-strait talks, and that in the end the legislature had the power to decide whether or not to approve any resulting agreement. That is all there is to it as far as Ma is concerned.

Ma also said rather scathingly that he would make sure that Wang received a “correct” response to his proposal. Remarking on legislators’ frequent references to the way things are done in the US, Ma said that the US Congress has a lot of power because of the way the US constitution is written and because of the loose way in which it has been interpreted.

Ma is talking rubbish again.

Every political and legal academic knows that the US was one of the earliest countries to adopt a constitutional government and that the separation of powers under the US constitution is not very clear.

However, they also know that the central theme of the system of three separate arms of government — that of checks and balances — is very clearly laid out.

As US political scientist and constitutional expert Richard Pious said: “The Constitution is less a blueprint of government, neatly dividing powers, than it is... ‘an invitation to struggle’ over the privilege of directing American policymaking.”

To put it plainly, the spirit of checks and balances under the division of powers is an invitation to slug it out. Whoever is in government welcomes the legislature to fight for the right to direct policymaking.

The purpose of designing the system in such a way was to put into practice the original intention of constitutional government, namely, to pursue happiness for the people.

The key is what kind of attitude those in government choose to adopt.

Ma is a very poor kind of legal hack whose intentions are shady to say the least.

As far as he is concerned, the Constitution means whatever he wants it to mean and nothing more.

Come off it, Ma — it has all been heard before.

Do not forget that your approval rating has dropped to about 9 percent. Never mind that the legislature is duty-bound to take back the power to direct policymaking on behalf of the public. You should be grateful that Taiwanese have not taken to the streets in open revolt. Not yet, anyway.

Christian Fan Jiang is deputy convener of the Northern Taiwan Society’s law and policy group.

Translated by Julian Clegg