Former vice president lambasts amendments to Taiwan’s referendum law

The new law would require petitioners to provide physical copies of their national IDs when backing a proposal or potential candidate

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Former vice president Annette Lu.

Former vice president Annette Lu. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has described amendments to Taiwan’s referendum law, approved by the Cabinet in April, as a reversal of democracy.

Lu issued a statement on Wednesday (May 8) condemning the revisions, which require petitioners to provide physical copies of their national IDs when backing a proposal or potential candidate. She said the plans would breach the right to personal privacy and obstruct the practice of direct democracy, according to United Daily News.

Lu called on all levels of society to oppose the amendments, providing five reasons as to why she believes the changes are an affront to human rights and constitutional law.

First, Lu said, falsified votes can be discounted according to referendum law. She questioned the need to introduce new regulations that punish all citizens for the misdeeds of a small minority.

Second, the right to public referendum is a direct civil liberty guaranteed by constitutional law, said Lu, and national identity is a fundamental privacy. Forcing citizens to sacrifice their right to privacy would threaten the referendum process by scaring them into disengagement.

Lu said that, thirdly, processing copies of IDs along with petitions would mean an even bigger burden on a system already heavily strained in terms of time and resources.

Independent candidates for president or vice president are a special case for which the law should be applicable, said Lu. But applying the same regulations to petition signatories would be absurd.

Finally, said Lu, the Kuomintang-led (KMT) “birdcage Referendum Act” strongly prevented the actualization of referendums. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government could now create an even bigger hindrance to the process and ensure the reversal of democracy in Taiwan, she said.

The “birdcage” amendment was enacted in 2003 and instituted high thresholds for referendums to be held and for their outcomes to be declared valid, leading all civilian attempts to initiate referendums under the act to fail. Revisions by the DPP government in 2017 lowered the thresholds, allowing the 2018 referendums to take place.

The new amendments to the referendum law aim to prevent petitioners from using the names of deceased citizens to back referendum proposals.