US congressmen, FAPA back Chen

STRONG SUPPORT: The congressmen backed Chen on his proposal to mull scrapping the National Unification Council, saying Taiwan was a free, democratic nation

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 1

A group of US congressmen have expressed support for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) remarks that he may scrap the National Unification Council and unification guidelines, despite comments critical of Chen's proposal by the US State Department.

A major pro-independence Taiwan lobbying group has also called on President George W. Bush to repudiate the State Department's position opposing Chen's plan. In doing so, the group has echoed statements by other Taiwanese officials who resent the hard line taken by the department's China policymakers, and rejected reports that Bush himself was angry at Chen's remarks.

Chen made the original remarks about the National Unification Council in a Lunar New Year's address, in which he also pushed for Taiwan to try to enter the UN under the name Taiwan and for a new constitution to be put to referendum next year.

"Chen Shui-bian is a man of peace," three members of the House of Representatives said in statements on the House floor on Wednesday.

The three congressmen, all Republicans, were Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Pete Sessions of Texas and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.

Addressing the unification question, Garrett said that the NUC "has long had its effectiveness in question," adding that Chen "does not want to see unification become the only option for cross-strait relations."

"China must learn to respect the aspirations of Taiwan's 23 million people who want to be masters of their own land," Garrett said, in comments repeated by Sessions and Foxx. "Taiwan is a free and democratic nation and deserves to be treated with respect by the international community."

Sessions cited the House's 424-4 vote last spring that blasted China's passage of the "Anti-Secession" Law.

"China has no justification to change the status quo either through the `Anti-Secession Law' or military intimidation," he said.

Foxx recalled that over the past six years Chen has "kept his pledge" not to seek to change the status-quo in the Strait, and has "offered many goodwill gestures to China."

"Let's hope that China will reciprocate Chen's olive branch by renouncing the use of force against Taiwan and resuming dialogue on an equal footing and without preconditions," she and her House colleagues said.

Last week, the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a pro-independence lobby, sent Bush a letter urging him to "show strong support and encouragement for Taiwan's fragile democracy and side with the democratic forces on the island, instead of inhibiting creative thinking about Taiwan's future."

The letter said that the recent State Department comments "inhibit a constructive dialogue and a further positive enhancement of relations between the United States and Taiwan."

By telling Taiwan not to change the status quo, "The US is preventing the island from ridding itself of the anachronistic remnants of its repressive past [under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)], while it gives China a say in decision-making on a democratic Taiwan's future that should be made solely by the Taiwanese people themselves," the Feb. 3 letter said.

It also called on the US to "gradually work towards normalization of relations" with Taiwan.

"The constant reiteration of the `One China' policy is not helpful," said the letter, which was signed by FAPA president C.T. Lee (李青泰). That policy, it points out, was developed 30 years ago when the KMT ruled Taiwan and "the voice of the Taiwanese people themselves was not heard."

A copy of the letter was also sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Meanwhile, in Taipei, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) yesterday submitted a letter to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to appeal for Bush's support for Chen's proposals to abolish the NUC. The TSU urged the US to abide by its founding principles in supporting Taiwanese people's freedom to decide their own future.

The letter was accepted by an AIT security official yesterday, but the institute made no comment on the letter.

Additional reporting by Chang Yun-ping