China to watch proposed constitutional amendment committee: scholar

05/20/2020 04:49 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) The Chinese authorities will closely follow President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) proposal Wednesday to create a constitutional amendment committee, given its potential to alter Taiwan's national status, according to a prominent scholar of cross-Taiwan Strait affairs.

In her second-term inaugural address, Tsai announced plans to establish a constitutional amendment committee in the Legislative Yuan, which she said would serve as a platform for discussing "constitutional reforms pertaining to government systems and people's rights."

Tsai said the committee's first priority would be to lower Taiwan's voting age from 20 to 18 -- an issue on which there is broad bipartisan consensus.

In Beijing, however, the proposed committee will likely draw attention for other reasons, Chao Chun-shan (趙春山), an honorary professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of China Studies, told CNA Wednesday.

The Chinese leadership will be monitoring "whether the committee makes any changes to (Taiwan's) national status or territory," Chao said.

Aside from the proposed committee, Chao said, Tsai's speech was largely in line with her "no provocation" approach to cross-strait relations, and even contained an olive branch of sorts in its direct address to Chinese President Xi Jin-ping (習近平).

In her speech, Tsai referred to Xi as "the leader on the other side of the strait" and said she hoped he will work with Taiwan "to jointly stabilize the long-term development of cross-strait relations."

In contrast, in her 2016 inaugural address, Tsai referred only to "cross-strait relations," while in her Jan. 11 re-election speech she made mention of "Beijing authorities" and "sides" of the Taiwan Strait.

Already on Wednesday, a coalition of 14 civic groups, including the Taiwan Citizen Front and the Economic Democracy Union, held a press conference calling on Tsai to draft an entirely new constitution.

Chiou Wen-tsong (邱文聰), a researcher at Academia Sinica's Institute of Jurisprudence, argued that the Republic of China (Taiwan) Constitution's references to "national unification" and the "Chinese mainland area" have provided grounds for "dangerous" policies such as the opposition Kuomintang's (KMT) 1992 consensus of "one China with different interpretations" and the "one country, two systems" policy espoused by China.

"What we need is not to amend the constitution, but to draw up a new one," the groups argued.

Meanwhile, KMT Chairman Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣) pointed out that the right to establish a constitutional amendment committee resides solely with the Legislature and cannot be carried out via presidential directive.

According to the Constitution, a constitutional amendment must be initiated by 25 percent of the Legislative Yuan, and must be passed by at least 75 percent of the Legislature, with at least 75 percent of the members attending.

Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party caucus currently controls 63 of the Legislature's 113 seats, meaning that they would need some opposition support to pass any kind of constitutional amendment.

(By Lai Yen-hsi, Chen Chun-hua and Matthew Mazzetta)

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