Wed, Mar 10, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Democracy forges ahead

In the first half of an exclusive two-part interview with the `Taipei Times' President Chen Shui-bian says that the forces of authoritarianism will suffer a major defeat as the people choose progress and reform

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian -- surrounded by his bodyguards -- visits several local townships in Taichung County in order to attract votes last Friday.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMESN

Taipei Times: Beijing insists on the "one China" policy and "one country, two systems," and refuses to undertake negotiations with Taiwan. But you say you only need to be elected to a second term in office for China to have to face the will of the people of Taiwan and for Taiwan to be able to restore its unofficial mechanisms for negotiating with China. How will cross-strait relations develop after the election, and should you win, how do you hope to advance cross-strait relations over the next four years?

President Chen Shui-bian: Once I have been re-elected, I will continue to devote myself to stabilizing cross-strait relations and continue to search for opportunities to make a breakthrough with the current situation. I have constantly emphasized the principles of goodwill and harmony, vigorous cooperation, permanent peace and mutual promotion of the sound development of cross-strait relations. We want to establish a peaceful and stable structure for interaction with the other side, and create a good environment in which the two sides may interact in the long term. As for the future direction of Taiwan-China relations, we have no ready-made plan; we hope that the two sides may follow the freely made choices of the people.

As Taiwan has already established a democratic system, changing things requires democratic procedure. The ability to gain the people's agreement (to change) is absolutely not something which any one man or any one political party is entitled to monopolize.

Taiwan is a sovereign, independent state. Leaders of states must protect their state's sovereignty, dignity and security. For this reason, we must insist on strengthening our democratic system and the sovereign status of our country, enhance the military's capacity to defend the nation, develop the freedom to focus on Taiwan, liberalize our economy and continue to promote cross-strait interaction on cultural, economic, trade and political issues.

Once I have been re-elected, I will devote myself to ensuring that our peaceful and stable cross-strait policy will remain unchanged, and call on the Chinese authorities to respect Taiwan's democratic system. The only way to contribute to healthy interaction is for the two sides to move forward as equals. I am confident that with wisdom alone, a method acceptable to both sides can be found to create a win-win situation.

TT: The second question in the referendum is about creating a "peace and stability framework for cross-strait interaction," and you have already established a task force to work towards this.

However, since June last year, when you first promoted the idea of holding Taiwan's first national referendum, China has applied pressure on Taiwan through the US, Japan and the EU, and Taiwan has had to refine its discourse on the international stage.

In the past, China wouldn't let foreigners interfere in the Taiwan question, but you call for the Taiwan question to be internationalized. Do you believe this to be in line with the DPP's long-term strategy, and has the internationalization of the Taiwan question begun? How should the head of state "guarantee Taiwan's security, sovereignty and dignity" under the current circumstances?

Chen: Referendums represent a universal value; no democratic country can oppose them. We fully understand the international community's concerns about referendums. But, actually, it's the false propaganda about referendums that the KMT has used over the last 50 years that has made the international community look upon referendums as a political taboo and caused it to ignore the significance of holding a referendum to strengthen Taiwan's democracy.

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