Taiwan: President Chen's speech on referendum
Press Conference February 3, 2004 (Translation)
Writing History with Democracy and Defending Taiwan with Referendum
A referendum is an embodiment of the universal democratic ideal that the
people, as vested masters of their homeland, have the fundamental right to
determine their own destiny. Many countries with a longstanding history of
democracy, such as Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, the United States
and Germany, have held referendums at both the national and local level. In
the newly democratized countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States,
referendums have played a key role in the arduous struggle for freedom and
democracy. Many of these referendums have contributed much to regional peace
and ethnic reconciliation. In the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Northern
Ireland, for example, a referendum successfully consolidated the support of
the people. These examples illustrate that Taiwan is not alone in the pursuit
of freedom, democracy and peace through referendum.
The Referendum Law has been passed with the full support of the people of Taiwan. Taiwan now has a legal basis for holding the first national referendum in its history. Indeed, this marks an important milestone worthy of joy and celebration.
The Constitution clearly endows the responsibility of safeguarding national sovereignty and defending national security on the President. In order to fulfill my constitutional duty and consolidate the will of the people, I have proposed a referendum on matters concerning national security in accordance with Paragraph 1, Article 17 of the Referendum Law: "To safeguard national sovereignty and defend national security is my solemn duty, as is my commitment to allow the people of Taiwan to be masters of their own land."
Beijing unilaterally denies the sovereignty of our nation and conspires to force us to accept its so-called "one China" and "one country, two systems" formulae. In recent years, Mainland China has continuously increased the deployment of missiles against Taiwan and has repeatedly threatened us by refusing to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. This behavior in fact already meets conditions prescribed in the first paragraph of Article 17 of the Referendum Law as "the nation ... threatened by an external force that could cause a change in the nation's sovereignty."
To realize the principle of popular sovereignty and prevent China from unilaterally changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait through a military offensive against Taiwan, we have decided to promote a March 20th Peace Referendum in accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of the Referendum Law. Two issues of national security concerning our country's defense capabilities and cross-strait negotiation will be put to the people through referendum. We will hold this historic referendum on March 20 to voice the will and the resolve of the people of Taiwan in preserving national sovereignty and seeking peace.
The first question to be posed in the March 20th Peace Referendum
pertains to strengthening national defense:
The People of Taiwan demand that the Taiwan Strait issue be resolved through peaceful means.
"Should Mainland China refuse to withdraw the missiles it has targeted at Taiwan and to openly renounce the use of force against us, would you agree that the Government should acquire more advanced anti-missile weapons to strengthen Taiwan's self-defense capabilities?"
Taiwan faces the world's most severe missile threat. It is anticipated that by 2005 China will have deployed a total of 600 ballistic missiles targeted against Taiwan, and the accuracy of their missiles will be greatly enhanced, to the extent that they will be capable of striking all major military bases in Taiwan with little or no warning.
China is increasing its missile arsenal against Taiwan at a rate of one every six days. We must quickly establish a consensus on strengthening our anti-missile capability to prevent a military imbalance between the two sides of the strait and to protect the livelihood and welfare of the people. This referendum reminds the people of the severity of China's missile threat and the urgency of enhancing our anti-missile capability. We must make it known to China and the international community that the people of Taiwan will not be coerced, we will not cower in the face of intimidation, and we stand resolute.
The second question that will be posed in the March 20th Peace Referendum pertains to "peace negotiations":
"Would you agree that our Government should engage in negotiation with Mainland China on the establishment of a "peace and stability" framework for cross-strait interactions in order to build consensus and for the welfare of the peoples on both sides?"
In the face of Mainland China's military threat, there is a definite need for Taiwan to actively enhance its self-defense capabilities, though, we can find reassurance in two strong pillars of support: the people and democracy of Taiwan.
History will concur that Mainland China virtually never supports what the people of Taiwan want, though rarely does their protest entail open opposition. Therefore, as long as we are able to voice the collective will of the people of Taiwan, demonstrate consensus and make our demands clear, Mainland China will have no choice but to give us credence and serious consideration.
Secondly, the viability of Taiwan's democratization will oblige Mainland China to face the decisions made by Taiwan-particularly through democratic process-including the results of elections, laws passed in our national legislature and decisions made through referendum. Even if Mainland China is not happy with the outcomes, they will have to accept them.
In accordance with my prerogatives vested under the Constitution and the Referendum Law, I have proposed a referendum to be held on March 20 this year that will allow the people of Taiwan to decide whether they agree that "our Government should engage in negotiation with Mainland China on the establishment of a peace and stability framework for cross-strait interactions in order to build consensus and for the welfare of the peoples on both sides". As long as the people of Taiwan, through this democratic procedure on the twentieth of March, clearly express their expectations on cross-strait negotiations, this will make the strongest statement to Mainland China, and serve as catalyst for them to seriously consider stopping their "sabotage" efforts as soon as possible, and resume dialogue with Taiwan. As to the content of these negotiations, we hope that the two sides can work together to create a lasting, peaceful environment for interaction that will allow each side to maximize opportunities to vest its respective powers towards its own development, thereby attaining the greatest welfare for peoples on both sides.
Reflections on Cross-Strait Exchanges
Since 1991, the two sides have been dispatching appointed representatives
to engage in negotiations. However, the negotiation process has always sidelined
by Mainland China's insistence on Taiwan's acceptance of their precondition
of the "One China" principle, using this to unilaterally obstruct
negotiation channels, thereby putting pressure on Taiwan to "give in".
With more than a decade of cross-strait exchanges, experience shows that without direct contact and with Mainland China's continued refusal to negotiate, it is impossible to meet the requirement of today's intensive exchanges. Furthermore, the situation creates countless impediments to furthering the breadth and depth of interaction and restricts the level at which interaction can take place. Therefore, in the future, both sides should make room for compromise and consensus-building, without sacrificing their respective basic positions and principles.
Both sides of the Strait are now at a crucial juncture for respective developments. Taiwan is in the process of major domestic reforms, and Mainland China is focused on its economic development. If we are able to seize the momentum, it will have great impact on our development and future prospects. The key lies in whether both sides can create a stable environment conducive for each side to devote itself to its own development. Seeking to establish a peace and stability framework for interaction will not only meet the needs of both sides, but will also allow each side to seek greater welfare for their peoples.
With the concrete, common goal of seeking peace and stability, we must seriously consider engaging in negotiations through formally authorized representatives from both sides as early as possible, in order to establish a sustainable and stable framework of interaction. We should enter into an agreement on the establishment of a peace and stability framework for cross-strait interactions as the basis for future cooperation and the maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Doing this will not only cultivate and further enhance mutual trust and minimize misjudgments, but will also help the two sides to face and understand the basic elements and rules for peaceful coexistence.
Drawing Lessons from History
History has illustrated time and again numerous conflicts resulting
from sovereignty issues. There are many precedents in which negotiation is the
means of establishing guidelines for settlement of conflict through peaceful
means, and, maintaining peace and stability.
Take the Middle East for example. Under the mediation of the U.S. and other European countries, Israel-albeit its tensions with neighboring countries resulting from complexity of religious and historical factors-has been able to sign and create peace agreements, including Camp David Accords with Egypt in 1978 and Peace Treaty in 1979, "Agenda for Peace" with Jordan in 1993 and Peace Treaty in 1994. Another instance is the Korean Peninsula, which has recently been in the international spotlight. In 1991, the two sides signed a non-aggression agreement and promised to promote peaceful trade and cultural exchange.
These precedents of the peace process share the following features:
1. Parties to the process not subordinated to each other
2. Commitment to resolving all differences by peaceful means
3. Recognition of each other's sovereignty, political independence, and the right to existence in environments free from threat or acts of force
4. Third-party participation to assist and monitor the peace process
The nature of these precedents may differ in certain ways from that of the cross-strait relations. However, the belief in the pursuit of peaceful resolution of the differences as demonstrated in these cases, is an important aspiration for the respective governments and peoples.
Main Elements of the Peace and Stability Framework - "One Principle and Four Major Issue Areas"
After March 20 this year, we will invite Mainland China to appoint its special envoy to meet and to work with our special envoy towards the initiation of cross-strait negotiation, in light of the "One Principle and the Four Major Issue Areas" as set out in the following:
(A) One Principle - Establishing the Principle of Peace
(i) Establishing joint responsibility for maintaining peace
and the consensus to cooperate:
Both sides must recognize that maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait is the joint responsibility of both parties and should therefore, work together to attain the objective of maintaining peace.
(ii) Any dispute must be resolved by peaceful means:
Both sides must make the commitment that any dispute, whether political, economic, diplomatic, military, or of any other nature must be resolved through peaceful and democratic negotiations.
(iii) No use of force:
Both sides must make the commitment to refrain from using force or any other non-peaceful means to threaten peace in the Taiwan Strait (including safeguarding the use of the Taiwan Strait by third parties, in accordance with generally applied rules and common practices).
(iv) No unilateral change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait area: Both sides should resolve the sovereignty issue through peaceful negotiations, and under the condition of peace (and free from military threats), neither side should make unilateral change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait area.
(B) Four Major Issue Areas
(i) Establishment of negotiation mechanism
(a) The respectively appointed special envoy, under the direct
authorization and instruction by the leader of either side, will meet to work
with his/her counterpart towards establishing direct communication channel,
the principles, format, venue, mechanism, and priority of issues for subsequent
(b) To facilitate negotiations, both sides should have representatives stationed in Taipei and Beijing, to facilitate communication and conveyance of messages.
(c) With respect to formal negotiation on substantive issues, this may be constructed on the existing mechanism, such as through the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), with or without the help of private organizations.
(d) The "Peace and Stability Framework" provides an overall plan
for cross-strait interactions. The existing proposals such as establishment of direct links and the opening for Mainland tourists, can be dealt with according to the priority established by both sides.
(ii) Exchanges based on equality and reciprocity
(a) Establishment of liaison offices to manage day-to-day affairs that may emerge from cross-strait exchanges.
(b) Provision of fair trial and legal protection to people of the other side.
(c) Mutual recognition of the laws and judicial decisions, and provision of judicial assistance.
(d) Expansion of cross-strait exchanges and cooperation, including:
· Discussions on economic issues (direct transportation links, tourism, trade and economic cooperation), and cultural, as well as technology exchanges.
· Joint efforts on cracking down cross-strait crimes
· Joint exploration of economic zones in the Taiwan Strait.
· Resolving fishing disputes.
(iii) Establishment of political relationship
(a) Due to historic, cultural, and ethnic ties, both sides should work together towards establishment of a political relationship based on mutual respect, and conducive to cross-strait interactions.
(b) Mutual recognition of jurisdiction.
(c) Non-interference of each other's diplomatic affairs.
(d) Membership in international organization, and rules for both sides' interactions in the international community.
(iv) Prevention of military conflicts
(a) Establishment of demilitarized zones (including removal of combat personnel, equipment and deployed missiles), creating a buffer zone in terms of time and space.
(b) Measures for prevention of military conflicts (i.e., rules and procedures for close encounters of military aircraft and ships).
(c) Prohibition of military and economic blockade.
(d) Rules and protocols for managing fishing activities at sea to prevent escalation of situation into military conflicts.
(e) Rules and protocols for conducting military exercises by both sides, to include areas of operation.
(f) Exchanges between military personnel in the appropriate form.
(g) Establishment of an independent oversight committee
Ladies and gentlemen, Taiwan's democratic achievements and
the fruits of our economic transformation are two cornerstones that will give
Taiwan the impetus to stand up in the world and march onward toward a better
future. These constitute the most precious legacy that this generation can leave
to our sons and daughters. Sustainment of the status quo with regard to Taiwan's
sovereignty, our ongoing democratization, our economic prosperity, and peace
in the Taiwan Strait are the common expectations of the 23 million people of
Taiwan. This is also the most solemn mission that I shoulder as the leader of
However, we must realize that, in the face of growing military threat and very volatile international circumstances, maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait is a complex task. Passivity will only lead Taiwan into an unfavorable situation where we will eventually become too powerless to defend the status quo and prevent its alteration. Therefore, it is essential that Taiwan take proactive measures to strengthen our defense capability and galvanize the will of the people, in order to safeguard peace and prevent any change in the current status of our sovereignty.
My dear fellow compatriots, let us not focus merely on the maintenance of the status quo of the past four years or even the next four years. We have a greater concern, and that is, how to establish a solid and sustainable foundation for Taiwan's twenty-three million people and future generations so that they too can enjoy lasting democracy, peace, stability, and prosperity.
Today, with conviction as well as pride, I formally presented the content of the March 20 Peace Referendum to the Executive Yuan. At the same time, this press conference will serve to further expound to the international community and our fellow compatriots the rationale behind this initiative as well as our resolve to press on with the Peace Referendum. Additionally, concrete plans for the establishment of a "peace & stability" framework for cross strait interactions will be presented as well. Because we are accountable to history, and to the people, therefore we hold fast to our faith in Taiwan, for we believe in the wisdom and courage of the people of Taiwan.
History will prove that the first step taken by the 23 million people of Taiwan on March 20, 2004, beyond representing a magnificent step forward in the history of Taiwan's democratic progress, signifies a crucial "giant leap" in the pursuit of peace in the Taiwan Strait. This great stride stands irrespective of ethnicity, class, or political affiliation. Let all the people of Taiwan go forth hand in hand.
In the name of Taiwan's democracy and for the sake of peace
across the Taiwan Strait, I hereby issue this call with utmost sincerity: Regardless
of which ticket you support on March 20, cast your rightful vote for the Peace
Referendum. The presidential candidate you vote for will decide the leader of
this country for the next 4 years.
The ballot you cast in the Peace Referendum can ensure the sustainable future of Taiwan and the future of our descendants. No matter how you vote in the presidential election, when you cast your ballot for the Peace Referendum, vote for Taiwan, vote for Taiwan's democracy, for peace, and for a sustainable future.
On March 20, let us all go to the polls joyfully, believing in the vision that Taiwan is writing history. Thank you.