Sun, Jun 26, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chen promises an end to `ossified' national identity

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A more practical approach to national sovereignty should be adopted to replace the old concepts dominated by a "greater China consciousness," President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday.

Chen said that doing this would not only be helpful to the nation's unity and ethnic harmony but would also facilitate the next round of constitutional reforms.

He was speaking at a forum hosted by the Taiwan Law Society entitled "Sovereignty, Constitution and the Future of Taiwan."

Chen said that "an illusory and ossifying `greater China ideology'" had severely confused Taiwan's national status and identity for five decades.

As a result, procrastination had hampered the development of democracy and constitutional government, he said.

"It will be impossible for Taiwan to become a normal country enjoying independent sovereignty, freedom and democracy unless it frees itself from this unrealistic political dogma," Chen said, adding that it was due to "greater China consciousness" that comprehensive changes to the Constitution had been obstructed, despite seven rounds of constitutional reforms in the past decade.

Chen sought to emphasize the importance of establishing "sovereignty consciousness" during the new round of constitutional reforms.

"If a person loses the power and will to be his own master, and listens to everything as if it were someone else's command, the person then would then be tantamount to a scarecrow -- having a body but no soul," he said. "So when we talk about sovereignty, it is not just about the right to be your own master, but more importantly, to have the desire to be your own master."

With the nation's democratization, the public's hope to be its own master was realized, and the gradual shaping of a lucid and unequivocally national "sovereignty consciousness" had begun, Chen said.

Chen reiterated that "the Republic of China is an independent, sovereign state, its sovereignty belongs to all people in Taiwan and only the 23 million people of Taiwan have the right to determine its future."

He said this was not only consistent with democratic principles but also honestly reflected the reality of the cross-strait status quo.

"With the establishment of a new discourse on national sovereignty and the fading of an old ideology, Taiwan is ready for across-the-board constitutional reforms," Chen said, adding that the passage of the constitutional amendment package by the National Assembly earlier this month was evidence of this.

The package included the abolition of the National Assembly and the granting of referendum powers to the public to approve constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislative Yuan.

After the assembly voted, Chen had vowed to speed up a second phase of constitutional reform.

Chen yesterday expressed confidence in the progress of this new round of reforms, and repeated his hope of delivering a Constitution more suited to Taiwan within three years.

"The second phase of constitutional reform re-engineering will not be more difficult than the first phase," Chen said. "I am confident that a timely, relevant and viable Constitution for Taiwan will be delivered before my term expires in 2008."

Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun had previously said that Chen's plan to introduce the second phase of reforms would not touch on such sensitive political issues as the national title, independence or sovereign territory.

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