Mon, Jan 30, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Scrap unification guidelines, Chen says

NEW YEAR GOALS Chen outlined three tasks, including abolishing the guidelines and the National Unification Council, drafting a new constitution and entering the UN

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH AP

President Chen Shui-bian returned to his hometown to hand out red envelopes for the Lunar New Year for the sixth straight year yesterday. The line was 2km long, but everyone seemed in high spirits, except for the first two men, who came to blows over who was first in line.

PHOTO: CHANG CHUNG-YI, TAIPEI TIMES

Now is an appropriate time to seriously consider abolishing the National Unification Council and the Guidelines for National Unification in order to reflect the current state of Taiwanese consciousness, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday.

"What Chinese unification are we after?" Chen asked, describing the guidelines as "a store whose sign has disappeared and stocks gone."

"In addition to considering whether to abrogate the nominal Unification Council and guidelines, I'd like to see the nation join the United Nations with the name of Taiwan," Chen said.

"In addition, I'd like to see the draft of a new constitution completed by the end of the year so it can be put to a popular vote next year," he said.

Chen listed his three goals for the new year in the opening speech at a lunch banquet held by hundreds of his supporters at his alma mater of Matou Junior High School in Matou (麻豆) Township, Tainan County.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) responded to Chen's comments by saying that the president had promised before his election and re-election that he would not abolish the council.

If the president now decided to abolish the council, his credibility would be questioned, Ma said.

The council was set up in 1991 by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). The guidelines were adopted by the council that same year as the blueprint for the government's cross-strait policy.

The guidelines set a goal to pursue a unified China that is governed by a democratic and free system with equitable distribution of wealth.

The guidelines also outline what positive steps both sides can take in the near, medium and long-term to ultimately achieve the goal of unification.

Chen also vowed to continue reform and urged the people to defend the nation's democracy and sovereignty.

"Most Taiwanese people hope to see the country pursue national dignity and enhance Taiwanese consciousness," he said.

"Both the Presidential Office and the new Cabinet will exert themselves to accomplish the goal in the new year," he said.

Meanwhile, a brawl outside president's family home in Chichuang (西庄) Village, Kuantien (官田) Township, Tainan County, briefly disrupted the line-up for the tradition of receiving a luckly hongbao or red envelopes from the hands of the president yesterday.

Blows were exchanged as a dispute over who was first in line became heated.

Chen Chao-shou (陳朝壽) of Taipei County was the first person to receive the red envelope from Chen yesterday. He said that he had camped outside the president's home since arriving to stand in line about a week ago.

Hou Tai-an (侯泰安), a resident of Kaohsiung, who was the second person to receive one of the red envelopes, insisted that he had been first in line.

Hou and Chen Chao-shou got into a shoving match, which was stopped by national security officers. Hou later managed to punch Chen Chao-shou in the face after both received their red envelopes.

About 18,000 people had lined up to receive the red envelopes, which contained a NT$10 coin. They also received a CD entitled the Songs of Taiwan.

Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) handed out red envelopes bearing the images of three children and three dogs lighting firecrackers to welcome the Year of the Dog.

The presidential tradition was begun by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), and now tens of thousands of people line up every year for the chance to receive a red envelopes from the president.

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