Referendum may be held to protest anti-secession bill

ON THE TABLE: Although stressing that the contents of Beijing's anti-secession law are not yet known, the premier said the Cabinet will consider a plebiscite

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Mar 02, 2005 - Page 1

If China passes an "anti-secession" law as expected, it is possible that Taiwan will mount a "defensive referendum" to counter the legislation, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) suggested yesterday.

"While we are not exactly sure about the content of the proposed legislation, anything is possible if it passes into law in the form that we expect," Hsieh told the plenary legislative session yesterday morning.

"The reason that we hesitate to propose a detailed counter-measure is because we'd like the international community to know that Taiwan is a peace-loving country while China is hostile to us and is trying to foment hatred and anger in the Taiwan Strait," Hsieh said in response to a question from Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Mark Ho (何敏豪).

Ho asked Hsieh whether it would be possible for Taiwan to hold a referendum to counter China's planned law. According to the Referendum Law (公投法), the head of state has the right to initiate a so-called "defensive referendum" to protect the country's sovereignty when the country faces external threat to its security.

Hsieh also took the opportunity to express the government's "strongest opposition" to the proposed law.

"China's plan to pass an anti-secession law violates the earlier claim made by Chinese leaders that they respect and put their hope in Taiwanese people," he said. "If they pass the law, they are responsible for the consequences."

Hsieh, however, emphasized that the government will first focus on voicing the nation's opposition to the proposed law to the local and international communities.

"I personally think resorting to moral appeals is the most potent approach rather than adopting a dramatic method," he said. "Being irrational might please some, but does not solve the problem. Winning the support and sympathy of the international community is a more practical scheme."

Responding to the "confederate one China" concept proposed by Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) -- which Ting did not define exactly but which would imply a China-Taiwan union of equals -- Hsieh said that while the government is open-minded about any possibility for the nation's future, it is important to respect the will of the Taiwanese people.

"Under the premise of peace and stability, it sounds like a creative idea and is one of many possible alternatives," Hsieh said. "However, I don't think it is appropriate for the government to take the initiative."

Claiming the "confederate one China" model is conducive to easing cross-strait tension, Ting proposed to hold a popular vote and let the people of Taiwan decide whether to form such a mechanism.

While the 10-point consensus reached between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) infuriates pro-independence supporters, Hsieh yesterday pledged to push the name change of government agencies on a case-by-case basis.

He added that he expects to receive a complete report on the matter in two or three months.

"I can honestly tell you that it is hard to push for a change to the national title because we do not enjoy a legislative majority," he said.

Regarding constitutional reform, Hsieh said that while it is difficult for the government to push for such a cause, he said he would like to see the private sector and opposition parties undertake that task.