TSU seeks end of unification council

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, May 15, 2002 - Page 3

The TSU legislative caucus yesterday proposed the abolishment of the National Unification Council and the National Unification Guidelines, arguing that the concepts that created them are outmoded and no longer popular.

Pressing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to eliminate the agency next Monday, the second anniversary of his inauguration, the lawmakers stated that only through the annulment of the council would the government be able to sort out a new direction for cross-strait relations.

The initiative was the latest move by the independence-minded party, which constantly points out that as a sovereign state, Taiwan is not part of China.

Last Saturday, the party -- along with some 70 pro-Taiwan groups -- mobilized more than 10,000 people take to the streets of Taipei in support of the campaign to use "Taiwan" as the country's official title.

The council was formed in October 1990 and the guidelines were promulgated in March 1991, under the direction of then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) as an attempt to form a consensus on cross-strait issues.

Seeing the council and the guidelines as merely a way for the ex-president to placate his former opponents, the TSU has set out to rid the nation of an agency it deems no longer of use.

"Taiwan's political environment has changed tremendously since the time the guidelines were declared. Given that the guidelines have failed, it is fitting to say that the [guidelines] are now historical documents," said TSU lawmaker Lo Chih-ming (羅志明).

"If Taiwan remains constrained by the guidelines, it is no different from being sent to the eternal prison of `one China,' or `one China, two systems.' Taiwan would never be free of its international isolation."

The lawmakers said that they received Lee's approval for the initiative before raising the motion, as the council and the guidelines were established under his administration. The former president is regarded as their spiritual leader.

The former president said he was supportive of the plan because the council and the guidelines were products of a political compromise and China's suppression at the time, according to Lo.

According to Lee, peace across the Strait can only be attained if China forsakes taking Taiwan by force. As the council and guidelines have failed to achieve this aim, "their existence is no longer of any significance."

In the proposal, the TSU notes that the function of the council is to expedite the unification of the country, yet the premise of unification has become a political sacred cow waiting to be challenged.

The pro-Taiwan party stressed that since unification is not their only choice, the people in Taiwan should be given the right to decide on the nation's development and its relations with China.

They urged the president to replace the council and the guidelines with a National Development Committee with National Development Guidelines to better-reflect public opinion and to alter the contentious nature of the unification-independence debate.

It is a widely shared view that the reason President Chen has never held a council meeting is that the agency's purpose contradicts his political beliefs.