President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) remarks on Sunday about Taiwanese independence did not violate his "four noes and one without" pledge, nor were they targeted at former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the Presidential Office said yesterday.
Chen caused a stir when he told attendants at the Formosan Association for Public Affairs' 25th anniversary dinner that "Taiwan will say yes to independence, Taiwan will be correctly named, Taiwan will have a new constitution, Taiwan will develop and there is no left-right political axis in Taiwan, just the question of independence or assimilation."
Less than thrilled by his remarks, People First Party (PFP) lawmakers filed sedition charges with the Supreme Prosecutors' Office yesterday against Chen, saying they hoped Chen could be tried because he does not enjoy immunity from such charges.
Some said Chen's speech was a counter attack against Lee, who recently said that independence was not an issue because Taiwan is already independent.
Others argued that Chen's comments violated the "four noes and one without" pledge he made in his 2000 inauguration speech.
The "four noes and one without" pledge stipulated that as long as China does not intend to use military force against Taiwan, Chen will not declare independence, hold referendums on Taiwan's nationhood, seek changes to the national title, enshrine "state-to-state" relations with China in the Constitution, or abolish the National Unification Council and unification guidelines.
Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Chen Chi-mai (
"The president said Taiwan will say `yes' to independence, but he did not declare independence. He said Taiwan will have a new constitution, but he did not say he will change the nation's title," Chen Chi-mai said.
Chen Chi-mai also dismissed talk that the president's remarks were in conflict with the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) platform, which declares that Taiwan as an independent, sovereign state.
"It is a fact that Taiwan is a sovereign nation independent from the People's Republic of China," he said.
Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), another deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office, dismissed speculation that the president's remarks were intended to boost the DPP's chances in upcoming elections. He said the president had simply felt it was an appropriate time to point out that the nation's sovereignty was under constant threat from China and to spell out future policy goals.
"If the president's remarks were targeted at anyone, they were targeted at China," Cho said.
Cho said the US government had not commented on President Chen's speech, but repeated that the comments should not be controversial because they did not violate the "four noes and one without" pledge and were consistent with what the president had said before.
People First Party (PFP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers, however, criticized the president for trying to spark a war with China.
"[The president] has committed the crime of sedition by making remarks at the risk of triggering a war. He should face the law for that," PFP caucus whip Fu Kun-chi (
PFP Spokesman Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said the party would boycott the national budget in the legislature if the president continued to push independence.
KMT lawmakers, meanwhile, said the president's comments were part of a strategy to win votes for the DPP in the legislative and presidential elections.
"[The president] hopes that military conflict [caused by his calls for independence] will divert public attention away from the DPP's poor performance and his embezzlement scandals," KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) said.
"If China attacks Taiwan for seeking independence, Chen could then proclaim martial law and suspend the legislative and presidential elections," KMT caucus whip Hsu Shao-ping (
Saying that the KMT "firmly opposed the president's comments," acting KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) said that "President Chen should explain to the public whether his `four noes and one without' promise is still in effect."
Former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
"The Republic of China is a sovereign, independent country and we have never doubted this," Ma said. "Why do we need to announce independence again?"
Ma added that President Chen often forgot what he had said, so the public should not take him seriously.
Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Secretary-General Chien Cheng-shan (錢橙山) told a press conference yesterday that "everyone is very clear that Chen made the remarks to target former president Lee."
"The president's remarks were illogical because the DPP's Resolutions Regarding Taiwan's Future passed in 1999 stipulate that Taiwan is an independent state. We believe the public will pass their own judgment on his statements," Chien said.
Chien added that the TSU would not support any presidential hopeful who said that Taiwan should declare independence because the TSU believed that Taiwan had become an independent country after the nation's first direct presidential election in 1996.
DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, however, said President Chen's remarks were in synch with the DPP's core values.
The Cabinet also supported the president.
"Taiwan is an independent country. In accordance with the Constitution, its name is the Republic of China [ROC]. The ROC and the People's Republic of China are two political entities that exist concurrently and are governed by two separate governments," Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (
Former presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming (
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