Mon, Apr 14, 2014 - Page 3 News List

SUNFLOWER SIEGE AFTERMATH: Academics call for civil conventions

CHECKS AND BALANCES:The groups are calling for the institutionalization of the cross-strait relationship, with monitoring mechanisms written into the Constitution

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Students and other members of the public attend a seminar on the controversial service trade agreement, organized by the Association for Free Communication and the Taiwan Forever Association, at National Taiwan University in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Civic groups and academics are urging the establishment of civil constitutional conventions following what they call the neglect of citizens’ rights and the legislature’s failure to function in its handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement.

They labeled the service trade agreement process unconstitutional and under-the-table.

Several hundred signatures have been received by the Taiwan Forever Association — the group behind the civil constitutional convention campaign — from citizens ranging from housewives, farmers and students to lawyers and professors.

Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology chairman Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌), one of the campaign’s initiators, said that Civil Constitutional Conference Promoting Front is more of platform than a registered organization.

The group is calling for greater transparency and institutionalization of the cross-strait relationship, effective civic oversight over cross-strait interactions and protection of national security and social justice while signing cross-strait agreements.

“Problems plaguing the country’s constitutionalism should be resolved by incorporating oversight mechanisms and the signing of cross-strait agreements into the Constitution,” the group said.

This would put in place a democratic defensive mechanism that would counter possible national security threats brought by cross-strait exchanges and it would reform the existing constitutional institution to prevent the abuse of power by the president,” the group said.

National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of Journalism professor Chang Chin-hwa (張錦華) said that many of the nation’s basic values, such as freedom of speech and the media, have been neglected, with the government insisting that the economic gains of the service trade pact with China would outweigh everything else.

“All the government says is that national security will not be affected by the pact,” she told a forum in Taipei yesterday.

“However, there is no comprehensive national security assessment report, and a government official even told us that this problem can be dealt with ‘after’ the agreement is in place,” Chang said.

“This is tantamount to saying that we can ‘invite a wolf into the room’ first and then see what happens next before deciding on any defensive move,” Chang added.

Judicial Reform Foundation executive director Kao Jung-chih (高榮志) called for a reassessment of the country’s constitutional institutions that uphold the checks and balances among the three branches of the government.

He said that in reality, the institutions grant the executive branch too much power that cannot be checked by the legislative and the judicial branches.

Hsiao said the idea of a civil constitutional conference promoted by the group is no different from that pushed by the Sunflower movement.

“We are trying to reach the same goal, with concerted efforts, from various routes,” he said.

The group is holding four discussion panels this week, focusing on how cross-strait exchanges might impact upon national security, economic development and security, freedom of speech and communication security and social justice, as a preparatory step to a future civil constitutional conference.

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