Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Abiding by the Constitution an excuse: academics

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

The so-called requirement of “conforming to the Constitution” given for the history textbook changes endorsed by the Ministry of Education is not without controversy and should not trump the democratic and progressive values consolidated by Taiwanese society through long-term struggles, a group of professionals said yesterday, calling on the ministry to halt the proposed changes to the high-school curriculum.

As the ministry and supporters of the proposed changes continue to cite the Constitution as the source of the legitimacy for the adjustments, academics and students have reiterated their opposition.

National Taiwan University history professor Chou Wan-yao (周婉窈) said the Constitution ensures citizens’ rights and reins in the government, but is not a basis for correcting textbook content.

Chau asked what name should be given to the island that the Republic of China (ROC) currently resides on — temporarily, according to the ROC Constitution, Chou said.

“If we are to call China the ‘mainland region of the ROC’ or simply the ‘mainland,’ then we would be calling Taiwan ‘the free region of ROC,’ so the official name of the Ministry of Education should be the Ministry of Education of the ROC free region,” Chou said.

“Calling this free region ‘Taiwan’ is probably unconstitutional too,” she added jokingly.

Ding Gih-jen (丁志仁), executive director of the Jendo Education Society (振鐸學會), an educational reform group, cited a Council of Grand Justices interpretation issued in 1993 on the ROC’s territory.

“The interpretation points out that, in the Constitution, the territories of the ROC are not ‘listed,’ and that its ‘existing boundary’ is a ‘political question’ that is not to be determinied by the Constitution-interpreting judicial institution,” Ding said.

The draft of the Constitution, promulgated in 1936 — which unlike the present one listed all of China’s provinces as territories of the ROC — did not include Taiwan, he said.

“In the San Francisco Peace Treaty [with Japan] signed in 1951 and the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty in 1952, Taiwan was not literally stated to be ‘returned’ to the ROC,” Ding said.

“The practical approach to the problem is to follow the Nationality Act (國籍法), which does not include the ‘mainland’ in its claimed ROC territory,” he said.

“Holding the question of the Constitution in abeyance does not mean Taiwanese are also suspending the question of Taiwanese identity,” said Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History.

“The ROC Constitution was the product of the elite minority, without the consent of the majority at the time,” Wu said. “It is also, for Taiwanese, a constitution from the outside [brought by the immigrant Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime].”

Taiwan’s history is interconnected with world history, with its interaction with China being a key part, Wu said.

Wu was echoing what student Piho Yuhaw — representing several Aboriginal student groups — said earlier at the press conference, that the viewpoints of Aborigines have constantly been ignored.

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