Several civic groups yesterday called for amendments to the Act Governing Treaty Ratification (條約締結法) to impose stricter rules on the signing of cross-strait deals and harsher criminal punishment for groups or individuals who do sign such deals without official authorization.
The proposal called for amendments to guarantee that cross-strait political negotiations and agreements honor three conditions: that Taiwan is treated as a sovereign state; that the content of any talks or deal must not encroach on the nation’s sovereignty; and that the terms of a deal cannot infringe on people’s rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international covenants.
The proposed changes included a requirement that the government submit a pre-negotiation proposal, which would require a vote by a quorum of at least three quarters of the legislature and approval by three quarters of lawmakers in attendance.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
The pre-negotiation proposal would then need to be published for a six-month public review before it is voted on in a referendum, the passage of which would be a requirement for the start of negotiations.
During negotiations, responsible parties would be obligated to brief lawmakers and the talks could be halted at any time if the process fails to abide by the pre-negotiation proposal.
If negotiations conclude successfully, the draft agreement would be subject to an evaluation of its effects on the nation’s constitutional system, public hearings and a legislative review before it goes through the same approval process as the pre-negotiation proposal.
The call for the amendments came just one day after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) insinuated that the KMT could ink a peace treaty with Beijing in accordance with the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) if it returns to power in next year’s elections.
Given the relations act's vague articles on negotiations and scrutiny for cross-strait deals, the door remains open for a repeat of the hasty passage of a proposed cross-strait service trade agreement at the legislature in 2014, Economic Democracy Union convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) told a news conference outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
“Only this time, what could be sold are Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy,” Lai said, adding that peace is merely a pretext used by China, whose real intention has always been to “lock Taiwan up in the prison of ‘one China’ and unification.”
Taiwan Democracy Watch president Chiou Wen-tsong (邱文聰) said that the proposed amendments would close legal loopholes that could undermine the government’s goal of maintaining the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait.
There is an underlying problem with the Constitution, because it still embraces the concept of “one country, two areas,” Chiou said. “That means there might not even be a need to amend the Constitution if Taiwan and China are to be united.”
The groups also called for an amendment to impose a prison term of seven years to life for any individual or organization that claims to represent Taiwanese and reaches an agreement, either verbal or written, with the Chinese government or its affiliates without official authorization.
That was proposed in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) invitation last month for any political parties, groups and individuals from Taiwan that adhere to the so-called “1992 consensus” to engage in “democratic negotiations” with Beijing, Economic Democracy Union consultant Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) said.
The “1992 consensus” — a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2006 admitted making up in 2000 — refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with both sides having their own interpretation of what “China” means.
The relations act currently stipulates a fine of NT$200,000 to NT$2 million (US$6,483 to US$64,830) for entities that engage in political talks with China without authorization. Repeat offenders or those whose actions carry serious consequences are punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a fine of up to NT$500,000.
The proposed amendments were submitted to the Democratic Progressive Party and New Power Party caucuses yesterday, the first day of the new legislative session.
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