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President reiterates resolve to hold U.N. referendum

Chen says his position firm, even if Bush publicly voices criticism

President reiterates resolve to hold U.N. referendum

In response to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's criticism of Taiwan's referendum on its bid join the United Nations, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Monday said during an interview that he would not change his position on the matter, even if U.S. President George Bush criticized the referendum.
Noting that in the backdrop of Bush and Chinese Premier Wen Chia-bao jointly criticizing Taiwan's first referendum prior to the 2004 presidential election, Chen said that he would risk defeat in the election rather than give up on the so-called "defensive" referendum.
After the 2004 referendum, in which 45 percent of Taiwan's eligible voters participated, countries like the U.S. and Japan should realized that they have every reason to believe that the U.N. referendum, to be jointly held with the 2008 presidential election, is very likely gain passage, Chen said in an interview with the Chinese-language Liberty Times on Monday. "To add five percent (to the last referendum) is absolutely possible," Chen said of the 2008 U.N. bid referendum.
Chinese authorities have repeatedly asked that U.S. officials to openly voice their opposition to Taiwan's U.N. bid referendum, and that move brought about Rice's statement, Chen said. However, he added that Rice's statement had not ventured beyond those made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen, AIT Director Stephen Young and AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt. Rice holds a much higher post, but is certainly not as powerful as Bush, who publically blasted Taiwan's first referendum in December 2003, Chen noted, adding that if Bush criticizes the 2008 U.N. bid referendum, it would not "be a bit surprising because it would not be the first time he did so, let alone the fact that the U.S. has rarely kept silent whenever Taiwan has planned to do something."
The U.N. bid referendum is a reflection of public opinion and not a government policy, and the government ought to accommodate public opinion and the concept of democracy, Chen said. "A popularly-elected president is not like an emperor from ancient times - how could a president call for the withdrawal of the referendum," Chen questioned. He further added that Taiwan respects the U.S.' opinions, and that it would continue communicating with the U.S., which the U.S. would likely consider a sufficient response by Taiwan.
On the question of how China or the U.S. will respond if the referendum is passed next year, Chen said, "They generally think the referendum will pass if there is no surprise." Chen said that he is convinced that they would not like to see the combination of "an elected Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and a successful U.N. bid referendum," which will very likely to be the results in March. Therefore, Chen said, what they care about at the moment is no longer whether the referendum will be successful, but "how the new president will carry out the referendum after it is passed."
The incumbent president is not in a position to influence the new president, rather it is the public that wield the most influence, Chen said.
Chen reiterated that joining the U.N. is the desire of a majority of the people in Taiwan and that referendums have nothing to do with changing the national title.
When asked to give some advice for Taiwan's new president in facing the possibility that China and the U.S. will join together to control Taiwan, Chen said that his "four noes" promises have established a solid base for Taiwan because they are predicated on the assumption that China will not use force against Taiwan. If the opposition Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is elected president, he and the KMT will abandon their weapons and surrender, Chen said.


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