Wed, Jan 07, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Kennedy nephew gives referendum a boost

HELPING HAND A relative of former US president John F. Kennedy, Patrick J. Kennedy is a Rhode Island congressman and a backer of President Chen's policy

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The people of Taiwan have the opportunity to express their opinion and support for their democratic principles and political system through a "defensive referendum," visiting US Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy said yesterday.

A nephew of former US president John F. Kennedy, the congressman for the First District of Rhode Island said that the US recognizes and celebrates Taiwan's democratic process.

"That is why we are so supportive politically and militarily to Taiwan, because we know you are sisters and brothers in the democratic experiment," he said.

Kennedy was speaking at a ceremony at which he received four dragon boats from Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新). The ceremony took place prior to a meeting with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at the Presidential Office.

Commenting on the government's "defensive referendum," of which the US apparently disapproves, Kennedy said the US committed itself to supporting the aspirations of all human beings in their desire to be free.

"I think the president of the United States, in his talking about the future of American foreign policy, needs to align with democracies and freely democratic governments, as opposed to dictatorships and regimes that too often our country has aligned itself with simply out of political expediency," Kennedy said.

The US sometimes aligned itself with dictatorships and undemocratic regimes because it wanted to maintain the status quo, Kennedy said, but he did not specify if he was referring to US President George W. Bush's rebuke of Chen during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) in Washington.

Although the wording of any question to be put to a referendum has yet to be finalized, Kennedy said he was not concerned that the poll would cause undue trouble.

"We do not see the referendum as a declaration of independence," he said.

"We see the referendum as an annunciation of support for the democratic principles, autonomy and political system that Taiwan has now. People have an expression [about them] that this is something they are looking forward to continuing," he added.

Reliable sources have said that China, unnerved by Taiwan's decision to go ahead with the referendum despite the concerns of the US and Japan, two of its most important allies, has secretively dispatched envoys to other Asian countries, urging them to oppose the poll.

Taiwan's National Security Council has itself been coordinating high-level delegations, which are preparing to leave for the US, Europe, Japan and Southeast Asia to explain the referendum plan.

Stressing the US government was not doing anything to fan the flames of discord between Taiwan and China, Kennedy said that the US would try to promote more dialogue and diplomacy to ease cross-strait tension.

"Taiwan does a much better job at guaranteeing freedom than we have seen in China," he said.

"I don't see there's any equivocation from the US that we prefer the democratic system of Taiwan over the totalitarian system of China," Kennedy added.

The congressman said that his uncle, President Kennedy, always believed in a people's ability to cast off colonialism and the kind of domination that communism often represented.

President Kennedy also believed in a people's ability to embrace freedom and the free-market system, like the people of Taiwan had done, he said.

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