Tue, Mar 06, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Calm Presidential Office downplays Chen's comments

PROVOCATIVE The president's comments on independence elicited a strong response from the PFP, which wants him charged with sedition

By Ko Shu-ling, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

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."

Sedition charges

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.

Damage control

Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) yesterday attempted to downplay the incident.

"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 (傅崑萁) said while leading a group of PFP lawmakers to press charges against the president yesterday.

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.

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