Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

DPP's referendum policy explained

PLAYING SAFE The apparent softening of the party's stance on holding independence plebiscites is because the president is concerned about the public interest

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

The DPP's stance on sovereignty referendums has become more conservative in recent days because President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) must take into account the interests of the Taiwanese and respect the trilateral relations between Taiwan, China and the US, a top DPP official said yesterday.

"As a national leader, President Chen has to weigh very carefully how much the referendum would affect the public interest, how Beijing would react, and how much support the international community would extend to us," DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said. "Chen's conservative adjustment is a result of prudent evaluations of the interactions of these three axes."

On Tuesday, the DPP agreed to merge its version of referendum legislation with a bill pro-independence DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) had already presented to the legislature.

Chai's bill allowed for referendums to decide issues related to Taiwan's sovereignty, while the DPP's allowed only for the "defensive use" of a referendum if China tried to invade.

The compromise waters down Chai's insistence on pushing for a referendum advocating independence and reflects changes the DPP made to its China policy before the last presidential election.

During the presidential campaign in 1999, the DPP passed the "Resolution on Taiwan's Future" (台灣前途決議文), which neutralized its policy to press for independence if it won power.

The resolution declares that Taiwan is an independent sovereign state whose name is the Republic of China. Any changes regarding this independent status quo must be collectively determined by the people in Taiwan through a plebiscite.

"The DPP has been promoting legislation for referendums for decades. During this time, we've constantly made improvements to our stance to better reflect changes in society and international realities," Lee said.

"That's why President Chen made the declaration of the `five no's' in his 2000 inaugural speech, which included not holding a referendum on changing Taiwan's sovereignty and was considered a very congenial gesture to China. They reflect the discretion and far-sightedness of the president when he took control of Taiwan," Lee said.

"The president has full knowledge and control of the referendum issue. How far it could go, or how much effect it would have on Taiwanese society and the international community are all carefully taken into consideration by the president," he said.

Lee's reference to the international community appeared aimed at the US, which has expressed reservations about any attempts to push for independence.

As for concerns that referendums in Taiwan would irritate Beijing and result in military threats against the nation, Lee said, "Beijing has always opposed any progress made in Taiwan's democratization."

Speaking of the 1996 cross-strait security crisis in which China fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait, prompting the US to dispatch warships to the area, Lee said, "It is not easy at all for China to start a war."

"Complex international relations won't allow China to do so," he said, adding that "the DPP's bottom line in its China policy has been conceded to avoid provoking China. If we don't irritate Beijing, we expect reciprocal respect from it for Taiwan."

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