The Executive Yuan's Referendum Review Committee yesterday turned down a petition submitted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asking for a referendum on the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) that the government plans to sign with China.
The committee turned down the petition at the end of a three-and-half-hour meeting after 13 members voted against the petition, while four voted in favor and two abstained.
“The majority of committee members felt that the question in the referendum petition was not clear enough,” committee chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) told a news conference after the meeting. “It does not ask the public to express its opinion on a proposal of a legislative principle, a major policy decision, or concrete issues of a major policy.”
“Instead, it asks the public to vote on something that has not yet happened — since the ECFA is not a concrete policy yet. Hence, we decided that the petition did not meet the criteria for a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法),” he said.
The petition by the DPP asks the question: “Do you agree that the government should put the ECFA that Taiwan signs with China to a referendum?”
“Holding a referendum on whether a referendum should be held is not a question that can be asked in a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act,” Chao said.
He added that the DPP could appeal the decision or petition for another referendum when the content of the ECFA becomes clearer.
National Taiwan University law professor Chen Miao-fen (陳妙芬), who voted in favor of the petition, said that she did not endorse the committee's conclusion.
“We didn't have a thorough discussion before the chairman called a vote on it,” Chen said, adding that while the meeting started at 2pm, they did not start discussing details of the proposal until around 3:30pm and that Chao rushed to close the discussion and call a vote at 5:30pm.
“We voted on whether to close the discussion, and the result was 9 to 9, meaning that half of the people still thought that we needed more time,” she said. “But the chairman ruled to end the discussion — I thought it was quite abrupt.”
The DPP yesterday called the committee's decision biased and lacking in objectivity. It said the committee had completely overlooked the people's right to propose a referendum.
The party added that an ECFA not only pertains to the economic relations between China and Taiwan, but also Taiwan's sovereignty.
It said that the committee's reasons for vetoing its proposal were preposterous because it would be unreasonable to launch a referendum after the pact had been signed and the damage had been done.
The DPP is expected to file an appeal.
Meanwhile, about 50 Referendum Alliance for Taiwan members staged a protest outside the venue of the meeting, saying the meeting was illegitimate.
“The committee has no right to make the decision, because expressing our opinion through a referendum is our right as citizens of a democracy,” convener Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴) said.
When asked for comment, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said she supported the committee's decision.
Lo said holding a referendum on ECFA before the public fully understands the pros and cons of the issue would only mislead the people.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU AND FLORA WANG
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
BRIBERY CASE: President Tsai Ing-wen accepted Su Jia-chyuan’s resignation as he said that he deeply regretted causing trouble for the president due to the investigation Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) yesterday resigned after his nephew, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), was implicated in a bribery case related to a dispute over the ownership of Pacific Sogo Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨). “I resigned from the post so that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would not be bothered by it anymore, and the prosecutors can investigate the case in a fair and just manner. I thank President Tsai once again for supporting me. May the country continue to prosper under her leadership,” Su Jia-chyuan said in a statement. The Presidential Office said that Tsai has accepted
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did