Thu, Nov 13, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Tsai says reform an urgent matter

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said constitutional reform was an urgent matter and urged the US to bring China and Taiwan back to the negotiating table.

Tsai made the comment before leaving on a trip to Washington yesterday.

Her departure to the US came a day after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) unveiled his timetable for creating a new constitution to visiting academics from the Brookings Institution in the US.

The academics, most of them former officials in the US government, attended a conference titled "Democracy, Nationalism and Security in the Asia Pacific" in Taipei.

Tsai will give speeches on the government's cross-strait policies to US academic institutions and hold closed-door meetings with several think tanks during her weeklong visit to Washington.

Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has invited Tsai to give a speech on cross-strait relations today, the MAC said.

On Saturday, Tsai will deliver another speech to overseas Taiwanese based in Washington.

Tsai declined to say whether she will be meeting with US government officials on her trip.

At the conference, Tsai said inefficiency in the political system and within the constitutional framework has contributed to the chaos people have experienced over the past three and a half years.

Constitutional reform will deepen Taiwan's democracy and give the people more power, she said.

Although some see Chen's referendum and constitutional proposals as polarizing the nation's political parties, Tsai said debate on such issues is not a bad thing.

"Taiwan's social and political system is strong enough for us to have good and sensible debates over the issues we are facing," she said.

Tsai said China's political situation, economy and society cannot develop sustainably unless the country heads toward democracy.

Meanwhile, the US, she said, should try to help reopen dialogue between China and Taiwan under the framework of international organizations, such as the WTO.

The US and European countries should urge China to respect human rights and secure its people's civil and political rights, Tsai said.

Philip Yang (楊永明), professor of political science from National Taiwan University, said Chen's announcement of the timetable for a new constitution and Tsai's Washington visit are evidence of the government's efforts to lay out a clearer constitutional plan.

Yang said, however, that the US will not voice opposition to or support for developments in Taiwan's internal affairs.

Yang said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), who will also visit Washington next month, is expected to express China's views on recent cross-strait developments.

With Taiwan's presidential election approaching, China has perceived changes in US policy toward Taiwan, particularly after American Institute in Taiwan Chairwoman Therese Shaheen's visit to Taiwan and Chen's trip to the US, Yang added.

China, Yang said, would like to know whether these changes mean the US has shifted its policy.

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