DPP U.S. Representative's 4/21/2014 Op-Ed in Taipei Times

By Joseph Wu 吳釗燮

The Sunflower movement’s sit-in at the legislature has come to a peaceful end, but one of the most important issues prompting the protesters to occupy the Legislative Yuan is yet to be addressed: Taiwan’s constitutional system does not provide an adequate mechanism to deal with political gridlock.

Since former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) began the democratization process, Taiwan has undergone seven rounds of constitutional revision. However, these efforts did not produce a presidential or a parliamentary system, but rather a mix of both. In the eyes of academics and political scientists, the existing system lacks full operability.

Under the Constitution, the president is directly elected and the commander-in-chief has the power to appoint the premier, the power to chair the National Security Council and can also be the chairman of his or her party. With no effective mechanism to balance the position’s influence, the president is supremely powerful.

The Legislative Yuan, in contrast to the US Congress, lacks the powers needed to provide proper checks-and-balances. In particular, the powers of oversight, investigation and impeachment are in the hands of the Control Yuan, whose members are appointed by the president.

Under the Constitution, the premier is answerable to the Legislative Yuan, which makes the relationship between it and the Executive Yuan similar to a parliamentary system. The legislature can initiate a vote of no-confidence in the premier and if it passes, the premier can request that the president dissolve the legislature and call fresh elections. This is also similar to a parliamentary mechanism for resolving political gridlock.

However, in practice, a vote of no-confidence has very little chance of success because lawmakers do not want to initiate an election and the ruling party is likely to block the attempt by applying party discipline. This may prevent the premier from being toppled by the legislature, but it also perpetuates gridlock.

Moreover, under the Constitution, the premier cannot attach a vote of confidence to a bill that the Executive Yuan deems crucial and the president or the premier cannot dissolve the legislature and call for a fresh election without a vote of no-confidence. Consequently, the methods of resolving political difficulties in typical parliamentary systems are not applicable.

In addition, the public understands the importance of the legislature to democracy, but surveys in the past decade clearly show public disapproval and distrust of the Legislative Yuan. This could have been predicted given the very small size of the legislature, which now has 113 seats. Also, 75 percent of the members are elected by constituents. These members need to look after their constituencies so little time is devoted to in-depth policy deliberation.

There is a consensus in Taiwanese academia that the problem can only be resolved by a reform of the electoral system. Many believe a German system should be emulated, which would substantially increase the number of seats, with overall seats distributed based on proportional representation while half of the seats from single-member district elections would be retained.

Without major constitutional reform, it is likely that political gridlock will reoccur. This will undoubtedly hamper Taiwan’s good governance, economic development and democratic consolidation.

One major demand of the movement is for a national conference on the Constitution. As a political scientist by training and one who has worked within the system, I fully understand the problems associated with the Constitution and support reform into a presidential or parliamentary system. It is all about good governance and democratic consolidation, not sovereignty.

Political scientists frequently define democratic consolidation as the political rules of the game, ie, constitutional rules and norms, being accepted with no or very little challenge. Taiwan is a young democracy and many of its international partners support the nation based on the common values and beliefs of democracy. However, it will become a grave problem for Taiwan’s democratic consolidation if the constitutional rules of the political game are seriously challenged from within the system or from outside.

The Sunflower movement has challenged the rules of the game in the name of safeguarding democracy. The movement’s level of public support provides a significant impetus to an overhaul of the Constitution.

Taiwan wishes to stand tall among the community of democratic nations and contribute to needed democratic development in the region. Hopefully, its friends in the international community will voice their support for efforts to reform, for this will be the path to deepen Taiwan’s budding democracy.

Joseph Wu is the Democratic Progressive Party’s policy director and representative to the US.

This article was originally published in the Taipei Times on Monday, April 21, 2014.


Message by DPP Chair Su Tseng-chang

April 14 - In my heart, I’ve been standing by Taiwan and the Taiwanese people since assuming the chair position. I believe that for this party, we must all strive to win the 2014 elections in order to build a victorious foundation for the DPP’s return to power.

As a founding member of the DPP, I have deep feelings for this party. The last two years, I’ve felt the deeper-level expectations of the people towards the DPP. The DPP’s support rate has climbed over the last year, surpassing that of the KMT, which is a gratifying achievement. Nevertheless, the people’s expectations are reflective of values that shield Taiwan, in which the people’s rights are protected and where the DPP stands unselfishly united. We can still reach this demand by the people towards the DPP.

Now, the students’ movement is flourishing and growing, and the 2014 plan to end the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is taking priority. We are not far from the November 2014 elections. Our power resources cannot be scattered, and the DPP must not be in disorder. With less internal conflicts, the party will suffer less damages. After careful consideration, I’ve decided not to seek for the chair re-election since two of the former chairs have already announced their desire to do so.

The next wave of democracy is here. The people will not wait for the DPP, and the future of the party depends on partnering with the people. I cannot bear to see the party being ripped apart, therefore, I have chosen to let go and to take a step back. Yet, in everything under the sun, my everlasting purpose to work for Taiwan will not cease.


DPP: Main Spirit of Oversight Bill is Democratic Process and Civic Debate

April 17 - Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesperson Fan Liqing commented yesterday (April 16), “We hope that follow-up agreements to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, including a goods trade pact, will not be hampered by student protests.”

In response to the TAO spokesperson’s remarks, Mr. Hung Tsai-lung, director of the DPP’s China Affairs Department, commented that the purpose of the Cross Strait Agreement Oversight Mechanism is a reflection of the demands by the Taiwanese people towards cross strait agreements.

Director Hung said, “These voices represent the diverse and vibrant voices of a democratic society. An oversight allows for disadvantaged sectors and small and medium enterprises to participate in the process, preventing just the few groups in the KMT and CCP party collaboration to solely benefit. An oversight also allows for the process of signing cross strait agreements to become more democratic and more comprehensive.”

“The cross strait monitoring bill will be helpful to the development and normalization of cross strait relations. Since the services agreement and the goods trade pact were negotiated each in their own way, the goods pact will not be affected. Future contentions in regards to cross strait agreements would be avoided if the KMT follows the principle of first enacting the monitoring bill before reviewing the agreement. Additionally, suspicions of black-box operations would be eased.”

Responding to TAO Spokesperson Fan’s comment that Taiwan independent forces were trying to reinstate into law “state to state relations” and “one country on each side”, which according to Fan is damaging the cross strait peaceful development, Director Hung also responded, “The main spirit of the oversight bill is to allow the people and the legislature to go through a democratic process of debate and civic participation.”

Director Hung emphasized that viewing this oversight bill from the perspectives of partisan divisions or from the stances of independence and unification is the wrong perception not only of the students’ movement, but also of the entire political circumstances in Taiwan at the moment.


DPP thanks U.S. House of Representatives for passage of H.R. 3470, The Taiwan Relations Act Affirmation and Navel Vessel 6 Transfer Act of 2014

For Immediate Release

DPP thanks U.S. House of Representatives for passage of
H.R. 3470, The Taiwan Relations Act Affirmation and Navel Vessel 6 Transfer Act of 2014
Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) expressed its thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives following the passage of H. R. 3470, "To affirm the importance of the Taiwan Relations Act, to provide for the transfer of naval vessels to certain foreign countries, and for other purposes."

In a letter to Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee thanking Royce for his leadership in the passage of this bill, DPP Chair Su Tseng-chang said:

Since 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) has stood as a model of Congressional leadership in U.S. foreign policy. The 35th anniversary of its passage offers an occasion for us to reflect on the breadth and depth of a bilateral relationship that has flourished under the TRA’s framework, and how this relationship has facilitated Taiwan’s evolution from authoritarianism to a full-fledged, multi-party democracy.

The events of recent days bear testament to the vibrancy of Taiwan’s civil society, a vibrancy which would have been unimaginable in 1979. The U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s security embodied in the TRA, as well as steadfast advocacy for human rights by the United States Congress in the years subsequent to its enactment, were both indispensable beacons of hope to the people of Taiwan. The strong bipartisan support for the resolution on display on the House floor today sends an unmistakable signal of the enduring nature of the friendship between the U.S. and the people of Taiwan, from which we continue to draw tremendous strength as we face the challenges before us.

I also wish to thank you and your colleagues for the provision to transfer the naval vessels to Taiwan. Taiwan's defense has been a top priority of the DPP since its founding and we deeply appreciate Congress' continued commitment to providing Taiwan with the defensive weapons and services we so deeply need.

Chairman Royce led a congressional delegation to Taiwan in February, 2014, during which he met with Chair Su and several other DPP officials.


DPP Supports Students’ Decision to End Sit-in of Legislature

Taipei, Taiwan - In response to the April 7th student announcement, titled “From defense to offense: out of the bunker and into the streets,” that they would end occupation of the Legislative Yuan on April 10, the DPP declared:
  1. We support the students’ decision. The student movement has awakened the public’s passion to participate in public affairs. During this peaceful, rational, and non-violent process, Taiwan’s young generation has demonstrated a high degree of democratic maturity. Meanwhile, the spontaneous force of Taiwan’s civil society has corrected the stubborn approach of the Ma administration, and created a “re-democratization” of Taiwan.
  2. The DPP has always advocated for legislation that provides oversight of cross-Strait negotiations. “Enact legislation first and review the trade pact later” has now become a social consensus. This proposal was established in the joint session of all committees in the Legislative Yuan on March 24, and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng made a similar commitment yesterday, April 6. This commitment was the determining factor that led to the students’ decision to vacate the Legislative Yuan. The DPP will remain firm and maintain a strict standard of review while seeking to move the oversight legislation forward as expeditiously as possible. The legislative process is expected to respond to the public demands and lead to an Act with substantial effect in overseeing cross-Strait negotiations. In the meantime, the DPP holds the KMT accountable for any action against public opinion or the raising of new issues.
  3. The student movement has provoked deep reflection from all parts of society. In addition to the lack of a transparent oversight mechanism for cross-Strait negotiations, the movement has surfaced constitutional issues that must be solved, and social anxiety over intractable generational injustice, social inequality, and imbalances in cross-Strait relations. To ensure Taiwan’s democracy deepens and prospers, we urge President Ma to listen, understand, and respond to these issues, and we hope all citizens come together to reflect on deepening and strengthening Taiwan's democracy. 
Translated by DPP US Mission. For the original text in Chinese, click here. 


DPP Perspective on the Cross Stait Trade in Services Agreement

Overall background on the CSTiS controversies

1.     The government's credibility has been called into question for not delivering earlier promises on ECFA, promises which include higher growth, more jobs, more foreign and domestic investment, better income distribution, etc. In fact, all indicators show otherwise. There is a deep public distrust toward the government argument that CSTiS will bring higher growth (of a negligible 0.025%, or US$5b); rather, the public worries about the potential impact on their livelihood. The government keeps arguing that the agreement will yield a more beneficial rather than negative impact (利大於弊), but never addresses the exact nature of the impact. Moreover, the government promise of coming up with a fund of NT$95b for compensation reinforces the public's worry that the government is not telling truth about the agreement's impact.

2.     The process of concluding the CSTiS agreement was not transparent. Sectors, members of LY including the speaker, and the opposition were all kept in the dark and this raised a high degree of public anxiety. This is one of the major criticism against the government over the agreement (黑箱,or black-box decision making). The government's argument that the agreement can be discussed but cannot be changed caused even more concern among the public leading to speculation as to whether there is any hidden agenda or secret promise by the Ma Administration to China. Because of the sensitivity in cross-strait relations, what the Ma Administration has been doing makes the people worry that one day it will sign another agreement with China and the people will have no say over it and cannot change it. President Ma and some KMT officials have remarked that the commodity agreement negotiations are about 80% complete. But Ma and his government are committing the same non-transparent mistake again and this will almost guarantee another round of public anger.

3.     On March 17, Chang Ching-chung, the KMT Chairman of the LY Interior Committee, rushed through the agreement and announced that the review process was completed and sent to the floor for reference (存查,not for review or approval備查或審查).  This ignited the public uproar and the uproar was not instigated in any way by the DPP. This is the immediate cause for the student occupation of the LY chamber. Chang’s action was in direct and complete violation of the internal LY agreement brokered by Speaker Wang on June 25, 2013 to review the CSTiS substantively.  This agreement was clearly stated in the Legislative Yuan Gazette and has binding effect according to Chapter 12 of the Law Governing LY Members Exercising Duty (立法委員職權行使法).

4.     There are two chairmen to each one of the LY committees in Taiwan. In the LY virtually unbroken tradition, when one chairman signs up to review a bill, that bill will stay with him/her unless there is an agreement to transfer. After the DPP chairman of the LY Interior Committee Chen Chi-mai signed up to review the CSTiS on March 12, which was carried in the LY Gazette (立法院公報), the bill should have been left to Chen to chair throughout the review process. Consequently, when the KMT’s Chang tried to cut in on March 17 to declare that he would also review the bill, it was seen as an extremely hostile act in the LY, no less than a declaration of war. The subsequently published LY Gazette did not recognize this particular session. The LY Gazette (立法院公報) can be found online. By the same token, when Chang declared again that he would review the CSTiS in the week of March 31, it was also an act of hostility, and was against the LY record carried it the Gazette. In other words, accusing the DPP of obstructing the LY process is not correct; the opposite is true, no matter how polite Chang has become under public fire.

5.     On August 5, 2013, Speaker Wang brokered another LY bi-partisan agreement to hold 20 public hearings.  The purpose of this agreement was to thoroughly review details of the CSTiS in a manner that should have taken place before the CSTis was signed.  In that LY internal agreement, which was also carried in the LY Gazette giving it legal effect, both the KMT and the DPP agreed to hold 10 hearings each. The chair of the Interior Committee rotates weekly between the KMT and the DPP, and, therefore, each chairman arranges hearings for his week. The KMT chair, Chang Ching-chung, arranged for up to 3 hearings in a single day and finished them rather quickly. There were bitter complaints from those who attended about his handling of these hearings and the lack of a substantive discussion in the hearings. The DPP committee chair, Tuan Yi-kang, arranged one public hearing for each of the rotational weeks he served as the chair.  These hearings went into great detail and took many hours to finish.  These hearings were highly appreciated for being serious and fruitful. This is why the hearings took almost the whole session in the Fall of 2013, not because the DPP was trying to stall the process. The DPP wanted to have the kind of hearings needed to fully understand the details of the CSTiS. Accusing the DPP of trying to stall the process, as President Ma has stated, is incorrect and a politically motivated mis-statement aimed at the opposition.

6.     The KMT came up with a compromise, after the crisis started, to substantively review the agreement in the joint committee, with the joint committee to be chaired by Speaker Wang. But it is clearly stated in the LY internal rule that committee meetings, including those of a joint committee, are only chaired by committee chairs, not the Speaker. The Speaker of LY only chairs the plenary sessions and whole-parliament committee on emergency decrees. The KMT’s “compromise” actually is illegal. Accusing the DPP (or the students) for not accepting the KMT compromise is far from reality, and accepting it would be inconceivable. (Speaker Wang did not even want to answer the question as to whether he would accept that KMT “compromise”.

7.     Ma’s responses to the students’ request, again and again, only made the students more angry. For one instance, the students argue for a constitutional conference to strengthen Taiwan’s democracy but President Ma decided to hold an economic conference instead at the urging of business leaders. The younger generation is the victim of cross-strait opening that has seen the unemployment rate much higher for the young and their average salary very low. For Ma to meet with the business leaders and agree to their suggestion of holding an economic conference is a very hostile act against the younger generation, and is only making the deadlock more difficult to disentangle. Ma has to change to bring about a solution. Any blame on the DPP for instigating the situation is far from reality, and does not help in any way resolve the current deadlock.

8.     Cross-strait relations may be temporarily halted for the time being because of the public uproar, which is caused by President Ma’s desire to rush CSTiS through the legislative process. Beijing might still try to help Ma, but realistically, any help to Ma will only raise more suspicion of the Taiwanese of Ma and may turn more Taiwanese against China. This may play into Beijing’s calculation about dealing with Ma, whether it is over the commodity agreement, Zhang Zhe-jun’s visit to Taiwan, or a Ma-Xi meeting.

The CSTiS Agreement itself needs revision
1.     In Article 3, the agricultural services' phrase should be removed to safeguard Taiwan’s agricultural technology from being stolen by China.

2.     In Article 7, information disclosure concerning China’s state owned enterprises should be added so as not to allow their huge operations to overwhelm Taiwan. 

3.     In Article 20, the dispute settlement mechanism should include the mechanism that exists within the WTO, since both Taiwan and China are members in the organization and the WTO mechanism should not be excluded.

Major concerns over the granted items in the Appendix
1.     Inequality:
In numbers of cross-border trade and e-commerce: Taiwan opens 47 items and China only 17;
In the mode of investment: Taiwan opens up sole ownership, partial ownership and joint-venture, but China does not open sole ownership;
Taiwan is fully opened in all granted items, but only Fujian and Guangdong are opened, for 10 items, within China;
Restrictions in opened items: China set restrictions on some of the items, with funeral service excluding cremation as an example.
2.     Unequal competition: China’s SOE’s are huge and Taiwan may not have a chance against them in competition.

3.     Grass-root economic activities may be endangered: community stores with low-threshold of skills such as barber shops, hair beauty saloons, laundry stores, etc. may stand to lose and this affects the bottom strata of Taiwan society.

4.     National security concerns.

Specific examples of items that need to be renegotiated
1.     Social care/welfare institution: Taiwan’s institutions are, by law, non-profit, and in China they can be profit-making businesses. But in the agreement, when Taiwan’s social care institutions invest in China, they are still to be non-profit, however China’s investment in Taiwan can be profit-making.

2.     Telecommunication: this is a serious national security concern. The US, India, Canada, Australia, Israel, etc. have excluded Hua-wei for reasons of national security. Taiwan faces a direct threat from China and there is no reason why Taiwan should not exclude telecommunication for national security reason.

3.     Geological survey: also for national security reasons, Taiwan should not be open for China’s investment in geological and environment surveys including surveys in coastal areas and the ocean-bed.

4.     Printing: In Taiwan, which is democratic, everything goes when it comes to printing. But in China, special permits from the government are required to operate, and the Chinese government does not issue permits to any foreigners. (In addition, the Chinese in Taiwan may print material that could constitute attempts to propagate on behalf of the Chinese government or affect Taiwan’s public discussions on issues, etc.)

5.     Funeral service: in China cremation is the most common method in use, but China bars cremation to Taiwan’s investment. At the same time, China can invest in all modes of funeral services in Taiwan.

6.     Advertisement: advertisement in Taiwan’s mass media can ultimately affect the direction of reporting and editorials. The media market in Taiwan has become very competitive and the mass media is susceptible to the pressure of advertisement. The experience in Hong Kong’s media market is more than obvious and Taiwan should not repeat it.

7.     Personnel movement with investment: for every US$200,000 of Chinese investment, 3 managers or white-collars can come to Taiwan. This is way too unrealistic for Taiwan people's comfort level given the sensitivity of cross-strait relations. Canada has recently barred Chinese investment immigration because of false identification. It is inconceivable for Taiwan not to follow suit.

8.     Financial sector: China can invest up to 10% in banks or financial control institutions, 15% in those that have invested in China or those that are yet to be listed for stock exchange, and 20% in bank branches. But the ownership in Taiwan’s banking and financial institutions is diverse, and most of the institutions are actually controlled by relatively small percentage share. In 8 out of the total of 16 financial control firms in Taiwan, the owners (and the ones who actually run them) have less than 10% shareholding. China Trust Financial Control (中信金控) is said to be owned by Mr. Ku, but he has only 8% of the shareholding. If China’s state owned banks are allowed to invest in Taiwan up to the full limit, they will actually be able to run most of Taiwan’s banking and financial control institutions. Because of cross-strait sensitivity, any sensible decision maker in Taiwan would never allow this to happen.

1.     The DPP supports free trade, open markets, and participation in the TPP. Based on the same belief, the DPP does not outright oppose to a service trade agreement with China. But because of the sensitivity in cross-strait relations, the DPP argues that the government needs to conduct assessment, consultation, negotiation, and review in a more transparent and patient manner, which might be slow, but it will certainly be better than causing an uproar which stalls the process all together. In short, when it comes to cross-strait negotiations and agreement, slow but steady is the best possible way to go.

2.     Conceivably, there will be more agreement with China in the future after the CSTiS Agreement is ratified by the LY, possibly with revisions and renegotiations. To ensure a more transparent process and a better or smoother procedure throughout, a cross-strait agreement oversight law is required. There seems to be an internal consensus now, and the LY should proceed efficiently with the legislation on an oversight mechanism for the all subsequent agreements to follow. The DPP now agrees to the principle of legislating the supervision as soon as possible, and to allow the new legislation to be applicable to the controversial CSTiS. This might be the ultimate way to end the current deadlock.

3.     The Ma Administration should be more aware of the public anxiety over cross-strait matters. President Ma should be aware that the people may consider it a nightmare to wake up to a new agreement with China in which they have no say and have no right to make any changes.

(prepared by Dr. Joseph Wu, DPP representative to the U.S. and executive director of the Police Research Committee)


DPP: Giver Power Back to the People

April 3 - The response by President Ma to the students’ call for a “citizen’s constitutional conference”  was the “national affairs conference”. DPP Chair Su Tseng-chang urges the government to return the power to the people. Following is Chair Su’s statement on the 17th day the students have occupied the Legislative Yuan:

The student movement has reached its 17th day, but President Ma clearly cannot understand the demands from the student groups and the real meaning behind their movement. What we see is the Office of the President and the Executive Yuan holding press conferences, but in all their remarks, they avoid the real questions, and this I believe, does not resolve any problems.

The students requested to “first enact a law, then review the agreement”. As it was done in South Korea to supervise free trade agreements, they hope to pass a law that would monitor cross strait agreements article by article, but the Executive Yuan today issued their own draft of the bill. While their ability to convert administrative orders into poetic lines, this absolutely cannot effectively monitor cross strait agreements.

The students requested a “citizen’s constitutional conference”, but in these 17 days, President Ma has moved no mountains and has refused to respond to the majority of public opinion standing behind the students. The Executive Yuan continues their spinning, avoiding the issue with their own version of a “national affairs conference”, while the KMT legislators are following President Ma’s orders instead of the citizens’ orders. We have major problems here, not only having to do with the Cross Strait Services Trade Agreement, the review process conducted in 30 seconds or the constitutional issues of our country, but also our entire system of government.

Our current constitution is showing that our president has no responsibility and while the threshold to dismiss the cabinet or impeach the president are all very high, our elected legislators are unable to represent public interests. This leaves a president under 9% in approval ratings with the power to push his own policy. Over 70% of the public has requested stopping construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, but the president is allowed to disregard this opinion. Only 30% support the Cross Strait Services Trade Agreement, but the president is persistent in seeing it passed to the end.

This is the challenge our country is facing, in which only under a selective period allowed to re-elect officials, the people have lost their power to balance and the tools to supervise the actions of the government. This is the main reason why the students have occupied our legislature, requesting for a “citizen’s constitutional conference”.

In order to break our country from this deadlock and move forward, we are offering two solutions:

The president must promise the students to “first enact a law, then review the agreement”:
The people have already expressed their opinion regarding the non-transparency behind the Cross Strait Services Agreement, and to immediately review of this agreement will create even more contention. The Ma administration expressed approval for a bill that would create mechanism to monitor and review cross strait agreements, and each side has produced their own version of the draft bill, so it is necessary now to go through legislative review. However, this should not be done in a hurry. Furthermore, the DPP believes that this step is necessary before the review of the Cross Strait Services Trade Agreement in order to resolve the people’s concerns over non-transparency in cross strait negotiations.

Hold a “citizen’s constitutional conference” to return the power to the people:

In addition to the current major controversies our country is facing, including the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the decline of our social security network and the conduct behind the Cross Strait Services Trade Agreement, we must also look into revising our constitution. These reforms include: lowering the threshold of constitutional amendments so that our constitution can respond to the needs and changes of our community. We must review impeachment, cabinet dismissal and referendum thresholds as well as government institutions and the electoral system. We need to design and re-establish the responsibilities consistent with the constitutional system so that the people can take back their power and effectively implement the right checks and balances.

It has been 17 days and this deadlock must be unraveled. The students have opened the door to let the country ahead of the times, and the DPP hopes that every sector of society can seize this historic opportunity to deepen Taiwan’s democracy.