TSU chairman wants referendum meeting

By Ko Shu-lingand Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 3

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) yesterday urged President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to call a meeting to decide the time and the framing of the question for a referendum on Taiwan's UN membership.

Huang's call comes as Taiwan's electorate faces the possibility of having two referendums on the same issue when they vote for a new president next March

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has proposed holding a referendum on whether to join the UN using the name "Taiwan" while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has suggested another referendum on "rejoining" the body using the country's official name -- the Republic of China (ROC).

Huang said he told Chen during their 50-minute meeting at the Presidential Office yesterday morning that he realized a majority of the Taiwanese people wanted to join the UN and a referendum on the nation's membership would let the international community hear the voice of the people of Taiwan.

Later yesterday Chen said that he was still thinking over Huang's proposal.

Huang said he was worried that neither of the proposed referendums would pass and if that happened, a second referendum on the same topic would be forbidden for the next three years, as stipulated by the Referendum Law (公投法).

Failure could be disastrous as the international community would then have more legitimacy to oppose Taiwan's UN campaign, Huang said.

While former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said on Wednesday that he did not think it was a good idea to hold the referendum concurrently with the election, Huang yesterday said he did not think Lee was against the referendum and his party did not have any set agenda on the matter.

But he said he hoped Chen would call a meeting to decide the best time to hold the referendum as well as the best question to ask in order to get the most favorable result.

Commenting on criticism of the plan from US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Christensen, Huang said that he understood the US' position but the administration was not obliged to act on it.

Instead of opposing the campaign, Huang said the US government should support Taiwan's democracy.

"The administration must think about what needs to be done in line with Taiwan's best interests and at the same time maintain its friendship with the US," he said.

Meanwhile, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday again called on the KMT and the DPP to drop their demands for referendums.

It could "put Taiwan in a difficult position when it comes to expanding its international space" if the parties stick to their plans because of election concerns without giving any thought to the international situation, Wang said.

"I fear [the referendums] will do the nation more harm than good because it might find itself more isolated than ever in the international community," Wang said.

He echoed Huang in calling for a national conference to resolve the issue.

In related news, several DPP lawmakers yesterday rejected Lee's disapproval of the referendum campaign after he spoke out against tying the referendums to the presidential election and said that Taiwan is not qualified to be a UN member as its legal status has yet to be confirmed.

"Joining the UN has the support of more than 70 percent of the public. If now is not the right time to hold a referendum, when is?" DPP legislative caucus whip Wang Tuoh (王拓) said.

Responding to the US' criticism, Wang Tuoh said that the US might have mistakenly assessed Taiwan's circumstances, as no single politician is able to suspend the referendum campaign as joining the UN is mainstream opinion in Taiwan.

TSU Legislator Lin Jih-jia (林志嘉) said Lee didn't actually oppose the referendum.

"Lee sees the bid as the right thing to do, but thinks it shouldn't be rushed," Lin said.