Thu, Mar 04, 2004 - Page 3 News List

To talk or not to talk was the question for debaters

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister without Portfolio Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) yesterday faced off with former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) in a debate about the second referendum question: whether or not to pursue cross-strait negotiations.

Branding the election-day referendum as "unconstitutional, illegitimate and irresponsible," Hsu called on the electorate to skip the referendum, because it was dangerous to conduct cross-strait negotiations unconditionally.

"If the referendum is successful, China will be very happy, because we'll unconditionally accept the `one China' policy at the negotiating table," he said.

Yeh, on the other hand, called on the public to support the referendum and send a message to China and to the world that Taiwanese people want peace across the Taiwan Strait.

During his 14-minute closing statement, Yeh said that Taiwan needed to send a message to the world that we want peace.

"Don't think that the international community is aware of our aspiration that we want peace," Yeh said. "If the referendum is successful, we'll not only tell China we want peace across the Taiwan Strait, but also develop a domestic consensus and end this partisan feuding."

If it fails, political parties will continue to engage in a needless struggle, China can profit from the nation's divisions and our political allies will know that Taiwanese people do not support peace across the Taiwan Strait, Yeh said.

Hsu, however, said that if the referendum is successful, it would not be a deepening of the nation's democracy but the "resurrection of authoritarianism" and "strong-man politics."

"Don't ever think that the nation's democratic development can't backpedal," he said. "It's not genuine and mature democracy when the public merely supports the government, rather, it's when the public has the guts to stand up to the government or politicians violating the Constitution and the law of the land."

Hsu also questioned Yeh's argument that the nation has to send a message to the international community.

"Do we want to tell the world that we're as irrational and self-willed as President Chen and not concerned about the nation's security and future?" he said. "I'm calling on the public to ignore the referendum and question President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who is not at all not trustworthy."

During the 16-minute opening speeches, Yeh said that the referendum is not only legal and necessary, but also a right guaranteed to the president by the Constitution and the Referendum Law (公民投票法).

"How could it be an abuse of power, as the referendum is a peaceful and economic means for the public to voice their opinions?" he said.

While the opposition camp has argued that referendums should be held to resolve controversial and difficult issues, Yeh said that there was another kind of referendum designed to consolidate consensus.

"The election-day referendum has the functions of both," he said.

Calling the March 20 referendum a referendum of "unconditional surrender," Hsu encouraged the public to show their opposition to it.

"The referendum the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] has been advocating is different from the one President Chen is proposing now," he said.

"It should be the last resort when the status quo in the Taiwan Strait is about to be changed," he said.

While the language of the second referendum question fails to touch on the negotiation premise of sovereignty and dignity, Hsu said that he was worried that the new president will be forced to conduct cross-strait negotiations unconditionally or accept the "one China" policy on the negotiation table.

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