Fri, Nov 03, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen supports `freezing' Constitution

NEW TACK The president threw his weight behind an idea first proposed by former adviser Koo Kwang-ming, which calls for a new constitution that avoids sensitive issues

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

In an interview with an international newspaper published yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said Taiwan could "freeze" its current Constitution and adopt a new one.

Under the headline "Taiwan set for new clash with Beijing," the Financial Times published a front page story yesterday in which Chen publicly backed the idea of "freezing" the Constitution for the first time.

"Mr. Chen said Taiwan should discuss the idea of a `Second Republic' -- a concept raised by one of his former pro-independence advisers -- to free the country of what he called an `absurd and unrealistic' definition of sovereignty, without openly provoking China," the article said.

Chen made the remarks during an interview with the newspaper on Wednesday.

Under the concept of "Second Republic," Chen said that the current Constitution would be "frozen" and a new constitution for Taiwan would be written.

"Freezing the [Republic of China] Constitution also means keeping some kind of a link to the [old] ROC Constitution and not cutting it off completely," he was quoted as saying.

The report said that Chen's remarks "indicate that Mr. Chen intends to challenge Beijing further before he steps down in May 2008."

"Mr. Chen's comments indicate he could adopt a more audacious course in strengthening Taiwan's separation from China before he steps down, an approach which would unsettle cross-strait relations after more than two years of relative quiet," the report said.

Chen told the paper that defining the scope of Taiwan's sovereignty and territory was "extremely serious, complicated and sensitive, but also extremely important."

As the current Constitution was enacted in China some 59 years ago, critics consider some of its articles outdated. The document defines the country's territory as "existing national boundaries" rather than spelling out precisely what comprises the national territory.

Chen said that the preamble to a new constitution could address the territory of Taiwan, but the relevant sections of the old Constitution defining the territory would not be touched, thus avoiding a change to the status quo, the report said.

The report said that the ideas discussed by Chen "represent ways technically to honor his previous commitments not to declare Tai-wanese independence," although Chen made clear that "he feels no more than formally bound by these commitments."

Chen also criticized Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) proposal to sign a peace agreement with China on the condition that Beijing promises not to use military force if Tai-wan does not declare independence.

Such an act would be tantamount to surrender, Chen said.

KMT Spokesman Huang Yu-cheng (黃玉振) last night said Chen was well aware that he did not have the power to order a constitutional re-engineering and such a proposal would not pass in the legislature.

Huang said that Chen was up to his old tricks and called on the pres-ident to stop being a "troublemaker."

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