Sat, Mar 30, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Academics debate cross-strait agreement draft

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Panelists at a forum organized by National Chengchi University and the Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei yesterday discuss the appropriateness of the government subjecting the signing of cross-strait political agreements to thresholds similar to those required to amend the Constitution.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

Several academics at a forum yesterday debated the appropriateness of the government subjecting the signing of cross-strait political agreements to thresholds similar to those required to amend the Constitution, with some calling for a clearer definition of what constitutes a “political” agreement.

The forum was organized by National Chengchi University (NCCU), one day after the Executive Yuan unveiled a draft amendment to the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) aimed at introducing high thresholds for the inking of cross-strait political agreements.

Under the draft bill, for a cross-strait political agreement to be implemented, the government would be required to receive the approval of three-quarters of lawmakers during a plenary session, with at least three-quarters of the legislature in attendance before and after negotiations.

The agreement would also need to be put to a referendum before it could be implemented.

The task of amending the Constitution needs to pass similar requirements, but the initiator of a Constitutional amendment must also first garner the support of one-quarter of the legislature to put forward an amendment.

Bruce Liao (廖元豪), an associate professor of law at NCCU, said that the Constitution already covers the signing of treaties, which are first inked by the president and then sent by the Executive Yuan to the Legislative Yuan for review.

“Can the legislature set a three-quarter threshold and demand a referendum just because it is afraid that the president and the Executive Yuan might team up and sell the country?” Liao said, adding the constitutionality of the draft bill is questionable.

While the bill rightly reflects concerns among Taiwanese about cross-strait relations, new legal restrictions should not affect the way the Constitution governs the signing of treaties and the government should use public hearings or consultative non-binding referendums instead, Liao said.

He also urged the government to provide a clear definition of cross-strait political agreements.

“The lines between politics and economics are oftentimes blurry and for some people, all cross-strait agreements are political ones,” Liao said.

Soochow University associate professor of law Hu Po-yen (胡博硯) said that Additional Article 11 of the Constitution authorizes the government and lawmakers to enact specific laws to deal with the rights and obligations concerning people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait, as well as other related affairs.

However, Hu said that he was concerned about the discrepancy in the percentage of the legislature required to green-light or pull the plug on cross-strait negotiations, which is three-quarters and a half respectively, as it could cause implementation problems, he said.

As the draft amendment sets issues that could alter or destroy Taiwan’s sovereignty status and its free and democratic constitutional order as off-limits for cross-strait negotiations, it could be difficult to define a political agreement, Hu said.

NCCU Department of Political Science associate professor Tsai Chung-min (蔡中民) said that the government should decide whether it would take a positive list approach to the definition of political agreements or leave it open to interpretation.

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) recent trip to Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China serves as a good example of how difficult it is to separate politics from economics, Tsai said.

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