Taipei Mayor Chen: "Let the Taiwanese decide"

Washington, 3 December 1997

Calls for referendum on independence

On Tuesday, 3 December 1997, Taipei mayor and leading opposition candidate for Taiwan's presidency said the DPP-party stands by its call for a referendum to decide whether the island should declare independence from China. ``The Democratic Progressive Party's platform states that it should let Taiwan people decide whether they want to declare independence,'' Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian told Reuters.

``Not any party -- including the Chinese Communist Party, the Nationalist Party, the Democratic Progressive Party, or the New Party -- can decide Taiwan's future for Taiwan people.''

Chen, the first opposition mayor of capital Taipei and widely expected to be the DPP's candidate in the 2000 presidential election, said Taiwan's 21 million residents should determine their own future through a referendum.

The independence-minded DPP stunned the ruling Nationalist party in local elections on Saturday, winning a majority of the 23 contested seats. On Monday, 2 December 1997, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing made renewed threats of military force against the island nation.

Chen said a democratic move to independence by Taiwan should be respected by the international community. ``The Democratic Progressive Party wants to establish a sovereign independent Republic of Taiwan, to form a new constitution and to let Taiwan residents make the ultimate choice about Taiwan's future,'' Chen said.

``Such positions have not been revised, altered or abolished,'' Chen said. Chen said he was confident that the Democratic Progressives, a banned, underground organisation before martial law was lifted in 1987, would soon become Taiwan's ruling party.

``Democracy in Taiwan has matured to an extent that it could endure Chinese Communists' missile tests,'' Chen said, referring to Beijing's war games and missile tests in the run-up to Taiwan's March 1996 presidential elections. ``(The missile tests) could not shake Taiwan people's willingness and determination to pursue democracy. Why will the Democratic Progressives' becoming a ruling party or controlling the parliament, or even winning the presidential election, destabilise Taiwan?''

DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang said on Monday his party wanted to establish reciprocal and mutually beneficial relations with China.

As a goodwill gesture, mayor Chen said he would welcome visits by the mayors of Beijing or Shanghai and would like to visit China as long as he would be received as Taipei mayor.

Chen, whose office was decorated with flower bouquets attached with notes referring to him as a future president of Taiwan, declined to say whether he was interested in running for president. ``I haven't thought of the question,'' he said. ``I can't tell what will happen two and a half years from now.''

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