The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) yesterday provided new documentation to challenge a decision by the Referendum Review Committee rejecting a TSU referendum proposal on the government’s planned trade pact with China.
The committee ruled on Thursday night that the TSU proposal asking voters whether they agreed with the government’s plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China was invalid under Article 14, Section 1.4 of the Referendum Act (公民投票法).
In a vote of 12 to 4 rejecting the TSU proposal, committee members said that there was a “contradiction or obvious error in the content of the proposal, thus making the intendment of the proposal not understandable [sic].”
The TSU yesterday said that the issue had already been settled in a previous meeting by the Central Election Committee (CEC), which it said had found that the TSU referendum question fulfilled the requirements under Article 14, Section 1.
In a letter sent to TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) on May 5, the CEC wrote that the issue had been discussed in one of their meetings on May 4.
The letter, signed by CEC Chairman Rai Hau-min (賴浩敏), stated: “The 402nd meeting of [CEC] committee members finds that [the proposal] doesn’t invoke any circumstances of Article 14, Section 1 under the Referendum Act.”
“It shows that their rejection of our proposal is a blatant disregard for the law. Their ruling is totally invalid,” Huang said. “It further proves that committee members had to use this laughable excuse to reject our proposal.”
The TSU said it is planning to appeal the decision as soon as next week.
Huang added that his party would also file lawsuits next week against each of the 12 committee members that voted against the proposal, accusing them of misconduct.
“The review committee directly rejected the findings reached by the CEC and used those findings to reject our proposal,” he said. “They willfully disregarded the law.”
The TSU said it was ready for a drawn-out battle in court, adding that it might seek a constitutional interpretation to ensure that an ECFA proposal could be put to a public vote.
It also pledged to start another referendum proposal seeking to abolish the Referendum Review Committee.
It alleged that the committee had “become a tool of President Ma Ying-jeou’s [馬英九] administration, used to oppress Taiwan’s democracy,” citing recent cases in which it had rejected referendum proposals.
A similar Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-sponsored referendum proposal was rejected by the committee late last year after it ruled that the question — asking voters whether they agreed that an ECFA should first go through a referendum — was based on a hypothetical situation.
Huang said his party would officially launch a move to abolish the review committee at a DPP Kaohsiung City event today in support of an ECFA referendum.
“The review committee has improperly restricted the public’s democratic rights. It’s illegal and it’s against the Constitution,” Huang said.
Huang also said the TSU would study the possibility of holding yet another public vote that would lower the threshold of the Referendum Act.
The Act has been a source of controversy for both the TSU and the DPP ever since it was first passed in 2003 by the pan-blue-controlled legislature.
Critics say that the act has an unreasonably high threshold of signatures needed to begin the process and votes needed to pass referendum. The TSU also said the 21-member review committee created by the act should not have the right to decide on the democratic aspirations of 200,000 Taiwanese.