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Taiwan, U.S. need to face reality

Taiwan, U.S. need to face reality

The release by the governing Democratic Progressive Party Wednesday of three alternative changes to the controversial "General Provisions" of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Constitution touch on sensitive issues such as our country's official name and definitions of citizenship and territory.
These proposals will naturally spark considerable controversy, but we must first recognize that the current Article Four, which maintains that the "the territory of the Republic of China according to its traditional boundaries shall not be altered except by resolution of the National Assembly," cannot be left unchanged.
One reason is that the National Assembly no longer exists and its function to amend the constitution has been replaced by the procedure of approval of constitutional amendment proposals by at least a three fourths majority of the Legislative Yuan and subsequent ratification by national citizen referendum.
Moreover, as President Chen Shui-bian has noted, the world community has recognized that both the People's Republic of China and Mongolia are independent states. Continuation of an implied claim in the constitution that these independent nations belong to the R.O.C. would indeed be an international joke.
Last but not least, the wording leaves room for ambiguity on the question of Taiwan's own independence and the basic human rights of our 23 million people to decide their own present and future in the face of Beijing's claim that "Taiwan is part of the PRC." Besides incorporating the new amendment principle, the three alternatives discussed but not yet approved by the DPP Central Executive Committee Wednesday offer a wide set of strategic choices. These include a proposal that would rectify Taiwan's name and explicitly delineate our territory as Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu and smaller islands. But it is clear that this option will only be chosen if the DPP feels that there is absolutely no hope of constitutional reform.
A second "pragmatic" option would retain the official ROC moniker, include the new procedure for constitutional amendment, explicitly acknowledge the independence of Mongolia and the PRC and, significantly, mandate that any political relationships between the R.O.C. and the PRC must be ratified by national citizen referendum.
The most moderate third version would simply incorporate the new procedure for constitutional change in a compromise aimed to secure opposition agreement to seriously consider urgently needed changes in our government structure and human rights protections.
We believe the DPP, just like other civic groups such as the 21st Century Constitutional Reform Alliance, is perfectly justified in raising these proposals to our people as possible solutions to correct real problems and to fulfill its promise to help our people realize our legitimate right to have a constitution that matches our needs and democratic will and principles.
Siding with China and the KMT
Unfortunately, the express position of the government of the United States on Taiwan's constitutional changes seems to be more in line with the positions of the authoritarian People's Republic of China and Taiwan's former ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) than with its own founding principles.
In the wake of President Chen's September 24 reminder that Article Four is anachronistic, U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack declared on September 28 that "we take seriously President Chen's repeated commitments not to permit the constitutional reform process to touch on Taiwan's status, including territorial definition." A demand by the spokesmen of the touted leader of the world democratic camp that President Chen not permit constitutional changes reflect a disgraceful lack of democratic principles as well as fundamental misperceptions about the reality of the Taiwan Strait issue.
Unlike the former KMT era, Taiwan is now a democratic state and neither President Chen or the governing DPP can single-handedly control the constitution reform process, since any proposed changes would require prior approval by an overwhelmingly legislative majority and a super-majority of Taiwan's citizens. Moreover, such officials seem to have misinterpreted the nature of Chen's "four no's."
Chen stated on May 20, 2000 that so long as the PRC had no intention of using force against Taiwan, he would refrain from declaring independence, changing the national name or flag, incorporating the "special state to state"theory of cross-strait ties into the Constitution or calling a referendum on "unification or independence." As a matter of fact, the president does not have the power to take any of these four actions, none of which are necessary for Taiwan's existence as an independent state in any case.
However, the president also does not have any right to prohibit any other civic group, including the DPP, or individual citizens from advocating such changes or realizing them if they can gain the needed overwhelming support from society. Of course, it is also possible that some people in Washington really do believe that the PRC and Mongolia should belong to the R.O.C.
After all, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou clearly does, as reflected by his statement in the televised dialogue with President Chen on April 4 that "the mainland insists that the PRC is 'one China,' while we do not recognize their existence and affirm that the 'one China' is the R.O.C., which they do not recognize."
Contradicting the KMT chairman, Chen declared that the DPP government "recognized the existence of the PRC," even though the PRC regime "refuses to recognize the existence of the R.O.C."
Taiwan is being compelled to deal with anachronistic features, such as Article Four, precisely because Beijing not only does not recognize the R.O.C. but insists incessantly and throughout the world that "Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China."
Unless Washington wishes to openly join Beijing in propagating the lie that the 23 million people of Taiwan are under PRC rule, the U.S. should drop its undemocratic demand that we ignore this reality and threat and instead turn its efforts to persuade Beijing to face the reality that the R.O.C. (Taiwan) is independent from the PRC and cease their oppression of our human and civic right to participate in the world community as equals.
Fortunately, we believe there are ways to square the circle, such as the suggestion of the 21st Century Constitutional Reform Alliance of civic groups to simply note that "the scope of the effectiveness of this constitutional framework is our national territory."


Updated : 2021-03-01 05:39 GMT+08:00