President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday came out clearly against the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) proposal to change the qualifications for running for the presidency to include being born in Taiwan.
The move is expected to bring him into conflict with ex-president Lee Teng-hui (
"According to the Constitution, any Republic of China citizen, who is over the age of 40, is eligible to run for president or vice president, regardless of birthplace," the president said.
Speaking to members of a delegation from the Federation of Chinese Associations in Japan, Chen said that the TSU proposal violated basic human rights.
Calling the TSU proposal, which has now gathered enough support in the legislature to be formally registered as a bill, an "important and serious issue," Chen said: "The ROC is a democratic country where the freedom of speech and the right of every national to take part in political activities are fully respected."
Chen stressed that since taking office in May 2000, he has endeavored to build Taiwan into a "human rights-oriented nation" (
"To deprive people of their rights of political participation is a very serious issue because it raises concerns over whether the country has a correct conception of human rights," the president said.
He stressed that Taiwan should follow the spirit of the "Universal Declaration on Human Rights," which mentions that the right of political participation can't be taken away simply because of the reason of a person's birthplace.
"Moreover, only if there is solidarity between ethnic groups in Taiwan and cohesion between the people in Taiwan and overseas Chinese, can there be a stronger country," the president said.
Chen's opposition to the TSU is expected to raise tensions between him and ex-president Lee. But yesterday TSU spokesman Lin Chih-chia (
"We can understand that President Chen has to keep neutral and has an obligation to act and speak in accordance with the current Constitution," Lin said.
TSU lawmaker Chen Chien-ming (
"My purpose is to awaken the `native consciousness' of the people of Taiwan," Chen said, "and I have no intention of provoking ethnic conflict in the country."
The TSU, which has only 13 seats in the 225-seat legislature, offered its proposal last week but the DPP did not express full support, saying that raising the controversial issue was inappropriate at the present time.
DPP lawmaker Tsai Huang-liang (