The Taipei High Administrative Court yesterday began hearing the Taiwan Solidarity Union’s (TSU) administrative lawsuit claiming that the Referendum Review Committee had illegally rejected the party’s proposition for a referendum on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
The TSU in 2010 had proposed a national referendum be held on the question: “Do you agree that the government should sign the ECFA with China,” but the proposition was rejected by the committee on the grounds that the proposed question conflicted with Article 2 of the Referendum Act (公民投票法), which states matters of taxation and rent were not open to referendum and that the TSU could not phrase the referendum question positively.
The party complained to the Executive Yuan, to which the committee answers, and said the Executive Yuan’s inaction forced it to launch an administrative appeal.
Although the Taipei High Administrative Court had not ruled favorably, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in May last year that the committee should launch a review of the ECFA referendum the TSU had proposed.
The TSU’s current appeal is a complaint that the committee had not obeyed the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court and once again rejected the appeal in August last year.
TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said the party would use plans by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to launch a referendum on whether construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should continue to prove to the court that the TSU’s proposition was legal.
Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠), the lawyer representing the TSU, alleged that committee chairman Chao Yung-mao’s (趙永茂) hurried convention for the hearing on the ECFA referendum proposal on July 19 last year prior to the re-election of committee members at the end of July was illegal because Chao had not informed Huang of the hearing.
Chao had also violated regulations by not holding a preliminary hearing, Kao said.
The hearing should be chaired by a representative named by an administrative official or by the official himself, Kao said.
He added that not only was the committee not an administrative unit and therefore had no right to chair the hearing, Chao’s representation of the government in previous lawsuits concerning the matter put him in a conflict of interest.
Kao also said the ECFA was not a matter of taxation or rent, but a piece of important national policy that concerned cross-strait trade and sovereignty, adding that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and the committee were purposefully misinterpreting the law when rejecting the party’s proposition.
The TSU referendum proposition was rejected three times — despite garnering the required 109,000 signatures — because the committee said the TSU could not phrase the question in a positive way, Huang said, adding that the government’s proposed referendum question was also framed as a negative.
The Ma administration’s proposed referendum question reads as follows: “Are you in favor halting the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and not letting it go into operation?”
Saying that the Ma administration’s referendum proposition identifies both pros and cons for the continued construction of the power plant and was in conflict with the actual question, Huang said that the question would not only confuse the public, but it also shows the same problems that the committee said was inherent in the TSU proposition.
If the Ma administration’s proposition for the referendum is approved, then the committee has no legitimate excuse for rejecting the TSU’s proposition, Huang said.
Huang and Kao also said that the administration’s proposal included the same problem on which the committee based its rejection, namely the inclusion of two different questions in one.
The committee said that referendum questions may address only one question and said that the TSU proposal “Do you agree that the government should sign the ECFA with China” actually contained two questions — the question of whether people agreed with the ECFA in and by itself, and the other on whether they agreed that the government should sign it with China — Huang said.
If the committee refused the TSU’s proposition, but passed the Ma administration’s proposition, it would clearly exhibit a double standard, Huang said, adding that if the government’s proposition passes, then the committee has no legitimate reason to refuse the TSU’s proposition.