National Assembly: Let Taiwan be Taiwan

Discarding "Taiwan Province"

Taipei, 22 July 1997

On Friday, 19 July 1997, Taiwan's National Assembly voted by an overwhelming majority of 261-8 votes to virtually eliminate the provincial government and freeze any further elections for the position of Governor and Provincial Assembly.

The Provincial government was a left-over from the 1940s, when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists still ruled China. After the 1945 defeat of Japan by the Allied Forces, Chiang occupied Taiwan, severely repressed the Taiwanese, and designated the island "a province" of China.

The new move wil boost Taiwan's de facto independent status, and dismantles one of the remaining links with the repressive past. The development is part of a new consensus between the ruling Kuomintang of President Lee Teng-hui and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. The DPP hailed the step as "...opening a chapter for a new Taiwanese history."

The National Assembly's decision was part of a series of amendments to the Constitution, which included a controversial expansion of presidential powers. The Assembly itself is expected to gradually fade away, as it is also a relatively useless relic of the past. The legislative function is being performed by the increasingly influential Legislative Yuan.

The phase-out of the provincial government was strongly opposed by Provincial Governor James Soong, who rode president Lee's coattails a couple of years ago, and became the first elected governor. However, he is a mainlander who is increasingly associated with the pro-unification extremist New Party, and his political career seems to have come to an end.

The New Party boycotted the vote, and -- according to a South China Morning Post report -- even help up banners saying "Taiwanese uprising, Jiang Zemin, Help!" Because of such extremist views, the New Party has been marginalized in Taiwan, and is not expected to play any role in Taiwan politics.

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