Thu, Apr 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen tells BBC of new constitution

NO TIMETABLE President Chen Shui-bian said in an interview that a new constitution for Taiwan will not touch on the issues of unification or independence

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said the new constitution he has vowed to finalize in his second term as president is not a timetable for independence, reiterating his view that Taiwan is an independent sovereign country.

In an interview with the BBC published on their Web site yesterday, Chen said "we want to put the new constitution to a direct referendum of the people to decide whether they want to accept the new constitution or not, and this new constitution will have no bearing on the issue of unification or independence, nor will it change the status quo."

Chen said the introduction of the new constitution by 2008 aims at modernizing political institutions and enshrining certain rights.

"It is very clear that our timetable for introducing the new constitution through referendum in 2006 and having the new constitution enacted in 2008 is just a timetable for Taiwan's democratic and constitutional reform.

"It has never been intended as a timetable for independence or unification.

"If anyone regards this as a timetable for independence then it is a serious misunderstanding and a serious distortion," Chen said.

He said the constitutional reform effort intends to deal with the issue of whether to adopt a presidential system or a Cabinet system, or to have the governmental division of power between five branchesr or three branches.

Other issues which will be incorporated in the constitutional reform include halving the number of legislative seats and adopting a "single district two votes" system, incorporating basic human rights, such as the right to peace and prosperity and rights of labor which include the right of solidarity, of justice and of negotiation.

Stabilize

Chen said in the interview that he has vowed to stabilize ties with China during his second four-year term, saying he hoped to be eventually regarded as a peacemaker instead of a troublemaker.

"I would like to make continuous efforts of stabilizing cross-strait relations, eventually reaching peace across the Taiwan Strait and stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region ? and hopefully eventually we will become a peacemaker instead of a troublemaker," Chen said in the BBC interview.

The BBC correspondent said Chen was relaxed and confident despite moves from opposition parties to overturn the election result.

Chen said he was confident that the dispute would soon be resolved, and criticized his defeated opponents.

Concern

"What concerns me more is that some people refuse to face their own election failure and went to such an extent as to mobilize their supporters to engage in long protests which resulted in the instability and division of our society and people," Chen said.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office yesterday said that the Washington Post's Beijing correspondent Philip Pan has apologized to Chen about a misinterpretation of his comments in a recent interview.

Pan said in a news article that Chen would "press ahead with an aggressive agenda to develop Taiwan as an `independent, sovereign country' despite the risk of war with China."

An official of the Presidential Office who wished not to be named yesterday said the correspondent admitted the lead paragraph of the report was his own interpretation of Chen's remarks and that he was "sorry" it has distorted the original meaning of Chen's words.

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