Several Democratic Progressive Party legislators, headed by members of the Taiwan Normal Country Promotion Association, have proposed a constitutional amendment “toward the normalization of the country,” which has aroused concerns.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said: “Do not go further on the evil road leading to independence via constitutional amendment. Stop before it is too late. Play with fire and you will get burned.” Although Ma was singing the same old tune, the issue of constitutional amendments is particularly sensitive given the tensions in cross-strait relations and between Taiwan, the US and China.
Amending the preamble of the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文) — by removing the words “national unification” and inserting that the nation’s territory is defined as the area where the Constitution applies — has always been seen by Beijing as a red line that must not be crossed.
The reason is simple: Once the truth behind “the emperor’s new clothes” — the assumption that the nation’s territory includes all China — is revealed and the Constitution is amended to conform to reality, the geographical and historical relationship between the Republic of China (ROC) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would be almost completely decoupled, leaving only Kinmen and Matsu as disputed territories.
The argument that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China” would prove itself to be false, and the view that there is “one China” and “one Taiwan” would become established.
The ROC represented China after 1912 and later fought against the PRC over the right to govern and represent it. However, since the ROC retreated to Taiwan, the rivalry between the sides is not a mere continuation of the Chinese Civil War.
The proposal to sever Taiwan’s ties with China has obviously become the target of hostility from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and other pro-China political parties.
How long will it be before this contradiction between the outdated Constitution and the constitutional reality is resolved?
The CCP’s “one China” principle is based on the extent of the sovereignty claims of the ROC. Even if the ROC government does not continue the fight to represent China, it remains in the Constitution.
Based on the Constitution, the Criminal Code (刑法) is still applicable to China, a point made clear by Australian academic James Crawford, a judge at the International Court of Justice, who in the second edition of his book The Creation of States in International Law said: “Taiwan is not a state because it still has not unequivocally asserted its separation from China and is not recognized as a state distinct from China.”
Whether it is because of pressure from China or from political parties in Taiwan, the fear of changing the Constitution and other behaviors seemingly intended to “maintain the status quo” are eroding Taiwan’s living space and status in the international community.
To put it more bluntly — continued adherence to the “one China” framework set up by Beijing and the historical legacy of the Chinese Civil War greatly increases the risk that China will annex Taiwan by force.
The proposed constitutional amendment to normalize the nation’s status and constitutional referendums initiated by the civil sector are not about changing the “status quo,” but rather about establishing reality.
According to a recent opinion poll conducted by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, as much as 83.4 percent of respondents said that the ROC’s territory includes Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and a few smaller islands. It is reasonable to amend the Constitution in a way that makes it consistent with something Taiwanese agree on.
Only those who side with China regard a possible constitutional amendment as a “change” in the cross-strait relations. Just as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has said: “Some foreigners with full stomachs and nothing better to do are interfering in our affairs.”
It is up to us Taiwanese to decide whether we should amend the Constitution or write a new one.
Chen Kuan-fu is a graduate law student at National Taipei University.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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