Thu, May 27, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Pro-independence groups demand new constitution

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pro-independence supporters led by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) have started a campaign to push for a new constitution.

The activists are upset with President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration speech, in which he backed away from a pledge to create a new constitution, opting instead to amend the existing Constitution.

Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂), chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence, also the convener of the Hand-in-Hand Taiwan Alliance, said yesterday the alliance has started a campaign to establish a Taiwan constitution -- something Chen had campaigned on ahead of the March 20 election.

Ng said Lee had agreed to organize the campaign, while Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文) would also offer advice.

Chen has said he did not backtrack from his constitutional reform plan and merely treated it with caution to take into account various interests. But Ng said drafting a new constitution is needed to specify Taiwan's independent status.

Ng said the campaign is a private effort and "has nothing to do with Chen's ideas."

Legislative discord

Criticizing Chen's plan to amend the constitution through the existing legislative process, in which 75 percent of lawmakers have to approve amendments, Ng said, "Basically it's impossible to get three fourths of the legislative body to agree on the amendment."

Ng said that what Chen wants to change through constitutional amendments, such as whether the country should have a three-branch or five-branch system or whether to adopt a presidential or parliamentary system, are just minor problems. The most important issue is whether the sovereignty issue is addressed, according to Ng.

"What we want is to create a new constitution through a referendum and we hope that sovereignty issues, such as the scope of Taiwan's territory, will be addressed. [It should state] that Taiwan's territory is Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu," Ng said.

Ng said the title "Republic of China (ROC)" only isolates Taiwan in the international community and that country must change its name to "Taiwan."

National territory

He said if it is too much trouble to tackle the controversial sovereignty issue in the constitutional reform project, the section of the Constitution dealing with national territory should be dropped.

"Japan does not mention its territory in its constitution, nor does the US, so we could also do without it," Ng said.

Ng dismissed Chen's inauguration remarks in which he said issues related to national sovereignty, territory and unification versus independence, on which the public has yet to reach a consensus, be dropped from the constitutional re-engineering project, saying the pro-independence campaign will promote a social consensus.

He said the campaign will be conducted both domestically and internationally.

Based on the organization of the Hand-in-Hand Taiwan Alliance, which created a 2-million person human chain on Feb. 28, Ng said, seminars and discussions will be held across the country and efforts to gain international media attention and foreign support would also be made.

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