Dr. Tsai Ing-wen: ECFA Referendum is essential, people must be determined to fight

Dr. Tsai Ing-wen: ECFA Referendum is essential,

people must be determined to fight

June 14, 2009

DPP chairperson Dr. Tsai Ing-wen held a press conference today (6/14/09) to launch the referendum campaign on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Together with Vice-Secretary Kao Jian-chi, Department of Culture and Communications Director Tseng Wen-tsan, and the Policy Research Committee’s Deputy Executive Director Liu Jian-Hsin, and with the support of representatives from aboriginal, Hakka, youth and Internet groups, Dr. Tsai announced her hope for recruiting 100,000 volunteers to help in the campaign working together on safeguarding Taiwan democracy’s last line of defense.

For those 100,000 ‘ECFA Referendum vanguards’, there are three major tasks: 1) Complete the collection of 100,000 signatures for the first stage petition required for holding a referendum; 2) Each vanguard will lobby another 10 persons to join the campaign so that one million signature target of the ECFA Referendum can be achieved; 3) Continue to push for “Oppose Leaning towards China, Safeguard Taiwan” campaign among the people.

”This particular Referendum is not only an important event in Taiwan’s democracy history, but also a milestone for relations between Taiwan and China. Furthermore, it served an important role as a way to resolve the internal conflicts within our country,” Dr. Tsai said, “The DPP is asking the general public for their support on the petition for the referendum, to be our volunteers, and, with the different groups attending the press conference today, we hope that our ECFA vanguards would be diverse and representing different parts of our society.

Dr. Tsai said that we announced beginning of the second phase of democratization for Taiwan in the May 17 rally and this ECFA Referendum is important part of it. In the past year, Taiwanese society has encountered much emotional unrest, with the governing party showing no transparency in their major cross-strait policies, a political fact which has made society anxious.

Tsai further indicated that, through this campaign, we want people to understand that there is still a last line of defense in our democratic system, which is the power to hold referenda, where the people are able to decide the important policy direction of the country and determine the future for ourselves.

Dr. Tsai point out that the current Referendum Act has its bars set high and is a hindrance to the democratization of Taiwan. This is called “the birdcage referendum act” was enacted with the goal of stopping and preventing referenda from happening. An 80,000-name petition must be first filed before a second petition to get the referendum considered by the Commission, then 800,000 names must be garnered so that the referendum can actually be put to a vote and finally 8 million people must vote on the referendum for the vote to be valid. But if we give up simply because it is difficult, then we will never succeed; if we give it our best shot knowing that it is difficult, more people will be touched, the power of the people will grow and we can change the Referendum Act and change society’s knowledge of the act.

Tsai strongly emphasizes the three main reasons for initiating this petition for referendum:

1. The contents within ECFA will no doubt change the future of Taiwan, economically, culturally and even politically, and will change the most fundamental aspects. This is a life-changing proposition, and if a referendum is not held for the people, it would be a flaw within a democratic society.

2. If this referendum succeeds in relaying the opinions of the public, then it shows that policies regarding cross-strait relations should be decided by the people. The current Referendum Act is preventing the government from giving the people direct decision-making powers, with the exception of a few cases. We hope to entrench this idea; that on important issues the government is responsible for holding a referendum for the people, not the other way around, where the people have to work hard to form a petition before they are given a chance to vote.

3. The relationship between Taiwan and China is the root of conflict between the two political platforms in Taiwan. If we let the conflict be the subject of public vote, it would lessen the societal cleavages on cross-strait policies. This is the way that a democratic society should go.

Dr. Tsai indicated that this referendum is different from the others in the past, for the DDP is initiating this referendum as the opposition party, and also since this issue pertains to the grassroots and will fundamentally change Taiwanese society. Although the current governing party faces strong conflict within the Legislative in addition to street protests, they ignore the public’s questions of their policy and continue to go along with their plans. Therefore, a referendum is the only way for us to go, and is the only time in Taiwan’s history where the people will have voted in order to provide checks and balance to the power of the government. Tsai called on the people to make a stand, and not let the ignorant government overlook the people’s power.

Tsai emphasized that this issue weighs heavily on the people of Taiwan for they are anxious about the survival of Taiwan and its sovereignty as a country. In addition, concerns about the future of Taiwan’s agriculture and economy have become the focus of much debate within the political arena. If people choose referendum as a way of communicating with the government, even as a way to oppose the government, then the democratic character of this referendum will make Taiwan's future a brighter one.