On SepT. 15, one of the slogans of people demonstrating against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was "abolish immunity from criminal prosecution and return our right to recall the president."
Some anti-Chen protesters apparently still care about the Constitution.
According to Article 52 of the Constitution, "The president shall not, without being recalled or discharged, be subject to criminal prosecution unless he is charged with having committed an act of rebellion or treason." Regardless of whether accusations of Chen's corruption are true or false, such accusations fall within the scope of criminal prosecution.
As to the recall issue, a presidential recall motion was launched by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in June, but failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority. If anti-Chen protesters believe that the current majority requirement is too strict, they must wait for a constitutional amendment before they can "reclaim the right to recall the president."
Since they are willing to consider the issue and take action based on the Constitution and the rule of law, the agitation will subside naturally and there is hope of a solution. Furthermore, Taipei City is governed by KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
Thus, if the pan-blue camp looks at the issue rationally, it will show restraint and prevent any violence from occurring. The mass demonstrations of Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 -- in which hundreds of thousands of protesters from both sides of the political spectrum took to the streets -- show that this analysis is correct.
Then, the next question has to be: What is necessary for the anti-Chen campaign -- ?which must come to a peaceful end -- to develop in a positive direction?
I submit the following three points for consideration.
First, and most importantly, since the campaign has realized that the "live or die" approach leads to violence, that its focus on Chen personally lacks legitimacy, and has shifted its focus to anti-corruption, it should take an honest look at the past corruption in the KMT as well as present and future legislators, regardless of political affiliation.
With a new legislative session just underway, lawmakers from both political camps should be pushed to draw up alternative versions of a "sunshine bill" so that an anti-corruption system can be established as soon as possible.
Second, the Constitution of the Republic of China was hammered out in China and is mostly irrelevant to the daily lives of the Taiwanese people.
The public generally do not have a practical understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of a presidential system versus a Cabinet system, nor do they understand the value of and restrictions to the freedoms of expression and political participation. Having experienced a transfer of political power, it should now be possible to discuss the direction of constitutional and other legal amendments based on the experience of the past decade.
Third, mass demonstrations are not necessarily a good thing for democracy. The current pro and anti-Chen demonstrations are mainly a product of TV and newspaper hype, as the media disregard journalistic professionalism and ethics to intervene directly in the political struggle, showing that Taiwan is an underdeveloped nation from a media perspective.
If Taiwan cannot reform its media, it is almost impossible that the nation will develop in a positive way.
Chen Yi-shen is an associate researcher in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.
Translated by Lin Ya-ti
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