Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chen determined over referendums

RESTORATION Direct democracy is a basic right that was stolen from the people and which should have been returned long ago, the president said yesterday

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday reaffirmed his intention to hold referendums during his presidency, saying that following the peaceful transfer of power in 2000, the realization of the referendum mechanism in 2004 would be the second milestone for Taiwan's democratic development.

"Referendums have been carried out in many democratic countries for a long time ... and for all Taiwanese, this is the recovery of their original rights, which should have come about long ago," Chen said.

"The government is now drawing a plan to set up [a referendum mechanism]," he added, "I have 100 percent confidence that the people of Taiwan will accomplish this historical mission rationally," he said.

Accompanied by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Chen made his remarks yesterday when delivering a telecast speech to the 30th Annual Meeting of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations (WFTA) in London.

Chen stressed that last year he had told participants in the meeting that Taiwan had to "go its own way," which he defined as "the way of democracy, freedom, and human rights," which he called a correct path from which there was no turning back.

"Now, while the whole world is watching whether we can continue along this road to make history, I announced on June 27 that the government will hold referendums on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and other important public issues on March 20 next year or before that date," Chen said.

"This will be the first time in Taiwan's history that people of the country can exercise direct democracy and make the final decision on national issues," Chen said.

Chen then compared his referendum policy with Hong Kong's recently proposed "anti-subversion" legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Pointing out the widespread fears that the proposed legislation will curtail basic liberties of Hong Kong residents, Chen said Hong Kong's experience under China's rule proved that Beijing's "one country, two systems" model was developing in a way quite antithetical to Taiwan.

"Over 500,000 Hong Kong people marched through the streets to express their opposition to the legislation, which aims to repress freedom of speech ... showing that people in Hong Kong have woken up and realized that only by supporting [Hong Kong's] freedoms and democratization can they ensure its future prosperity," Chen said.

"In comparison with China's rude pressure [such as] blocking Taiwan's bid to enter the World Health Organization [WHO], as well as Hong Kong's current situation, we can only conclude that the real meaning of `two systems' is totalitarianism and oppression. The policy is a sham," Chen said.

Last year, when addressing the 29th annual meeting of the WFTA in Tokyo on Aug. 3, Chen raised the stakes with China by claiming in a 20-minute video presentation that there was "one country on either side" (一邊一國) of the Taiwan Strait and that Taiwan had to seriously consider passing a referendum law to protect the country's sovereignty.

On that occasion, he also reiterated that Taiwan must go its "own way" in building its future in the wake of Beijing's rejection of Taiwan's goodwill toward improving cross-strait relations.

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