The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday completed the first stage of its application to hold a referendum, delivering 150,000 signatures petitioning for a referendum on the government’s planned economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China to the Central Election Committee’s Referendum Review Committee.
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the government should not seek to boycott or delay the referendum.
“The government would pay a serious price if it did so,” Tsai told a press conference yesterday held with Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) and former Examination Yuan president Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文).
The DPP worked with the TSU and pro-independence groups in obtaining the signatures for the referendum.
The Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that the signatures of 0.5 percent of eligible voters — about 80,000 people — must be collected to apply to hold a referendum. In the second application stage, 5 percent of eligible voters — about 800,000 — must sign a petition before the proposed referendum can be screened by the Referendum Review Committee.
“We realize the referendum law is flawed, with such a high threshold for a referendum, and that collecting 1 million signatures is a tremendous challenge for the party,” Tsai said, but she added that the DPP would collect the 1 million signatures to make the referendum happen.
Arguing that signing an ECFA would change Taiwan’s future politically, economically, socially and culturally, Tsai said that at its core the economic treaty with China concerned Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Unlike what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) claimed, the ECFA cannot be separated from the sovereignty issue, she said.
In its referendum proposal, the DPP said that because holding referendums to decide on significant national affairs was a growing trend internationally and that because signing an ECFA with China would have a serious impact on Taiwan’s future, the government should agree to hold the referendum.
Ma has said on numerous occasions that he opposes a referendum on an ECFA, saying it is unnecessary because no political items would be included in the agreement.
Ma’s policies on China have been the least transparent of his administration, Tsai said yesterday, adding that she had never seen a government refusing to face the public to such a degree.
Many of Ma’s policies on China are made without public discussion and legislative review, including opening Taiwan to Chinese investment, she said.
“When Ma told the public that signing an ECFA with China was significant and an emergency, he never saw fit to elaborate on the process of signing it and hasn’t elaborated on the content and purpose of such an agreement,” Tsai said.
When an administration fails to govern well, the people should uphold their right to make decisions or pass judgment on significant national affairs, Tsai said, calling on the public not to abandon the right to vote on the ECFA.
At a separate setting yesterday, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中) said of the referendum that “it would be a waste of government resources for the opposition party … since the benefits are already obvious to country’s business community.”
Deng, however, said it was the right of any opposition party to voice its opinion and use legal processes to express its views.
The ministry yesterday launched a series of cartoons to explain the doctrines of an ECFA, which it will distribute as brochures at various government-planned meetings throughout the country.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ELIZABETH TCHII
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