Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming’s (柯建銘) proposal to suspend the party’s so-called “Taiwan independence clause” to boost its chances of returning to power was deemed unnecessary by his own party yesterday, but it earned rare acclaim from China.
Beijing, which rarely agrees with the DPP, praised Ker’s proposal yesterday, with Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Fan Liqing (范麗青) describing the caucus whip as “a man of vision” and his initiative as “a positive sign, as well as an important step in the right direction if the initiative is approved by the party.”
The “independence clause” is an article in the party’s charter that calls for the establishment of a Republic of Taiwan. Beijing has always said that the clause is a primary roadblock to it engaging with the DPP.
However, members of the DPP, including DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), gave Ker’s suggestion the cold shoulder, saying that the controversial proposal was untimely and could spark an unnecessary dispute in the party and violate the spirit on which it was founded.
Su said that suspending the clause is a non-issue because the DPP views Taiwan as an independent and sovereign country given the series of constitutional amendments, presidential elections and legislative elections that have taken place over the years.
“Everyone’s opinion should be respected, but it is the consensus that matters. The consensus of Taiwanese is that the nation is sovereign and independent, and its future should be decided by the 23 million people who live here,” Su said.
Several DPP lawmakers also had reservations about Ker’s initiative, despite agreeing that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
“Taiwan’s independence is in the DPP’s DNA and it has never changed. Changing the ideology in exchange for bilateral engagement is not smart, nor would DPP supporters accept the abrupt change,” DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said. “Proposing suspending the independence clause before a major election is much ado about nothing. Besides, you don’t win support by abandoning your core values.”
The timing of Ker’s initiative is inappropriate because it is likely to incite an argument between the moderates and the fundamentalists in the party, DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said.
If the initiative was submitted on the presumption that it would facilitate engagement between the DPP and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), doubts would inevitably arise, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said.
The first direct presidential election in 1996 and the follow-up DPP resolution on Taiwan’s future three years later had both established that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent nation, which “basically achieved the goal listed in the independence clause [written in 1991],” Lu said.
“The 1999 resolution on Taiwan’s future, to some extent, could be seen as a revision of the independence clause. I believe most people would find this acceptable,” she said.