On 19 May 1999, nineteen organizations, representing the overseas Taiwanese community in Canada, Europe, and the United States, issued a White Paper on Taiwan's Safety and Security.
This paper discusses how the safety and security of Taiwan affects peace and stability in all of East Asia. The Paper first gives a brief historical background, and then presents an overview of the Chinese military threat and Taiwan's defensive capabilities.
The Paper reiterates the appeal to the world community, that the overseas Taiwanese community and the people in Taiwan want their island-nation to be accepted by the international family of nations as a full and equal member.
The Paper is based on the premise that peaceful coexistence between Taiwan and China as two friendly neighboring states is the only way in which peace and stability in East Asia can be guaranteed, and urges China to renounce the use of force. It is intended to signal that the people of Taiwan want peace and stability, but are determined to defend themselves when threatened.
It makes a number of policy recommendations, aimed at strengthening Taiwan's defensive capabilities. It suggests that in view of China's fast-expanding missile threat the United States and Japan must make it crystal clear that Taiwan is included in the proposed East Asia Theater Missile Defense system.
It also recommends that Taiwan expands its anti-submarine warfare capabilities, in order to constitute a credible deterrent against China's massive submarine force, and that its air-to-air armaments and avionics be upgraded.
The Paper is the second in a series. The previous one, titled "White paper regarding Taiwan and its Future" was issued in November 1998. Through these White Papers, the overseas Taiwanese want to promote a better understanding in North America and Europe of their homeland Taiwan, and to gain support for acceptance of Taiwan as a full and equal member in the international community.
The full text of the White Paper can be accessed in HTML-format or downloaded in Acrobat PDF-format from the "Taiwan, Ilha Formosa" website at http://www.taiwandc.org.
Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party held an important Party Congress on 7-8 May 1999 in the southern port-city of Kaohsiung. The DPP Party convention overwhelmingly passed a Resolution on Taiwan's Future, by a vote of 233 to 21. The resolution emphasizes that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country, and that any change in its status must be decided by the people on the island by means of a referendum.
It rejects the PRC's claims to the island, and its "One China" and "One Country, Two Systems" as fundamentally inappropriate for Taiwan. It urges the Kuomintang authorities to renounce the outdated "One China" position, in order to avoid international confusion, and it urges a bipartisan consensus between the ruling Kuomintang and the democratic opposition on foreign policy, "to face China's aggression and ambition." And finally, it urges a comprehensive dialogue with China, "...to seek mutual understanding and economic cooperation" in order to "...build a framework for long-term stability and peace."
In an explanation following the seven points of the main proclamation, the DPP Congress gives a further elaboration of its position, emphasizing that Taiwan is a sovereign independent country.
The explanation contains a controversial clause, stating that "...Taiwan, although named the Republic of China under its current Constitution, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China." While the DPP supporters wholeheartedly agree with the second part of this clause, the first part became a topic of hot debate, because some read in it an acceptance of the name "Republic of China", which is anathema to many supporters of the DPP, and a throwback to the four decades of KMT repression and Martial Law.
Another action of the Convention was to pave the way for former Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian to run in the 2000 presidential elections by approving temporary changes to DPP-party rules which would have prevented him from taking part in polls.
|Four candidates readying themselves for the presidential race|
"The DPP has to get ready for 2000," DPP secretary-general Yu Hsi-kun told reporters at the end of a two-day party congress. He praised the new rules, which require endorsement of 161 out of the 200-member electoral college. "By the time of the party congress, there was a consensus that the charismatic Chen is just the right presidential candidate for the DPP," DPP legislator Yen Chin-fu said. At the end of May 1999, Mr. Chen was endorsed by 168 out of 199 DPP party and public officials. He accepted the recommendation and will be formally nominated by the DPP as its presidential candidate at a Party meeting in July.
The endorsement of Mr. Chen Shui-bian by the Party Congress ends a bitter intra-party struggle with former DPP-chairperson Hsu Hsin-liang, who also wanted to be nominated. Mr. Hsu left the Party on Friday, May 7th, and intends to run as an independent. In opinion polls he received less than one percent support.
Political analysts in Taiwan expect Vice President Lien Chan, aided by the patronage of President Lee Teng-hui, to be nominated by the ruling Kuomintang for next year's race.
Former Taiwan provincial governor James Soong, once a supporter President Lee Teng-hui, is expected to run in the elections as an independent candidate. His ties with President Lee turned sour when the authorities decided to downsize the anachronistic "provincial government" last year.
Ten years ago, in the early hours of the morning of Friday, 7 April 1989, a major opposition journalist in Taiwan died. Mr. Cheng Nan-jung, publisher and chief-editor of Freedom Era Weekly, set himself on fire rather than be arrested by police, who had cordoned off his office, and who were forcing their way into the office to arrest him on "sedition" charges for publishing a draft-Constitution for a new, democratic and independent Taiwan.
Mr. Cheng had been at the forefront of the democratic movement in Taiwan. In May 1986 he organized the first "Green Ribbon" demonstration against Martial Law, which was still in force in Taiwan. The "Green Ribbon" campaign would last through the summer of 1986, and would eventually lead to the establishment of the opposition DPP-party on 28 September 1986, and to the lifting of Martial Law in July 1987.
Mr. Cheng was born in Taipei in 1947. he was actually half Taiwanese, half mainlander: his father came from Fukien, while his mother was native Taiwanese from Keelung.
Mr. Cheng majored in philosophy at National Taiwan University, and during his college days was already an innovative entrepreneur. In 1984 he started publishing his Freedom Era Weekly Magazine, which became a leading magazine in the budding democratic opposition movement.
It also became a lightning rod for the Kuomintang's secret police, which started to censor and confiscate the magazine. Until the time of Mr. Cheng's death, Freedom Era Weekly had published 270 issues. It was the only opposition publication to have succeeded in publishing continuously, in spite of heavy censorship by the Kuomintang authorities. Before the end of Martial Law in July 1987, some 95% of the individual issues published by Mr. Cheng were banned or confiscated by the secret police.
Still, Mr. Cheng never lost a beat, and the following week a new issue would find its way to the readers again. For this, Mr. Cheng did not make use of the postal system or the bookstall along the streets (where the magazines were very susceptible to confiscation), but a private distribution system. he also had 17 magazine titles registered, so that each time the authorities suspended a title for a year, he would continue with the next title as if it were a spare tire.
Mr. Cheng is survived by his wife Yeh Chu-lan, who is presently a prominent DPP-member of the Legislative Yuan, and his daughter Chu-mei.
On Tuesday, 20 April 1999, an 11-day-old hunger strike by some 24 prominent members of the democratic opposition in Taiwan came to an end. The fast started on Saturday, 10 April 1999, and had as its purpose to put pressure on the ruling Kuomintang to allow passage of a Bill in the Legislative Yuan, providing for a referendum on major national issues, such as Taiwan's future.
On the opening day, about 1,000 people marched through Taipei to show support for the hunger strike, according to the Taiwan Association of University Professors, which organized the march. "The issue of Taiwan's national status and controversy over major public policies such as building nuclear power plants need to be resolved by referendum," the association said in a statement. The cheering protesters marched past the President's Office. The two-hour demonstration ended peacefully.
Participants read a statement and sang songs before starting the hunger strike in front of the Legislative Yuan building. They include DPP lawmakers Shen Fu-hsiung, Tsai Ming-hsien and Chang Chun-hsiung, Taiwan Independence Party chairman Hsu Shih-kai and former chairman professor Lee Cheng-yuan and a number of overseas independence leaders, such as World Federation of Taiwanese Associations president James Lee, and World United Formosans for Independence-USA President Ko Sebo.
The hunger strikers succeeded in calling attention to the failure of the ruling Kuomintang to enact such a bill since its first reading on March 16, 1994. Their effort received wide attention in Taiwan and was reported by the London-based BBC.
"The KMT did not guarantee the passage of a plebiscite law in the parliament, and we should have persisted," said a statement released by the Taiwan Plebiscite Action Committee. "But we're afraid that if we continued with the fast someone will die."
Three participants were forced to drop out due to physical weakness. Dozens of supporters of the referendum, including parliamentarians from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and college students took part in the hunger strike.
As a concession to end the hunger strike, the majority KMT allowed debate on the plebiscite in the legislature, but indicated it did not want passage of the bill.
The bill allowing the holding of referendums on national issues ranging from nuclear power plants to Taiwan's future, proposed by DPP legislator Trong Chai, passed its first reading in parliament in March 1994 but was blocked by the KMT.
The plebiscite bill was discussed again in the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday, 20 April 1999, and will be pursued at a later date, when the members of the Legislative Yuan participating in the hunger strike will have recuperated.
The campaign organizers said that they had to call off the hunger strike for the sake of the 23 strikers' lives, but stressed that their determination and resolve has not softened. In a joint statement, they reiterated the need for a plebiscite law to ensure the right of the people of Taiwan to self-determination, and said they will take further action in the future to achieve their end.
Legislator Trong Chai from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, who coordinated the hunger strike, said at the beginning of the fast on 10 April 1999 that they are convinced "a plebiscite can be the best solution to problem of Taiwan's sovereignty," and would give the people of Taiwan a voice in major policy decisions in the country.
In an opinion poll conducted in mid-May 1999 by the Cultural and Educational Foundation in Taipei, 55 percent supported the proposal to add a referendum to Taiwan's Constitution, while only 17 percent opposed the idea.
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