DPP lawmakers seek removal of 'national unification' from Constitution

09/30/2020 08:21 PM
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DPP lawmaker Chen Ting-fei (center right). CNA photo Sept. 30, 2020
DPP lawmaker Chen Ting-fei (center right). CNA photo Sept. 30, 2020

Taipei, Sept. 30 (CNA) A group of ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators on Wednesday announced proposals to remove the term "national unification" and the much-contested references to "existing national boundaries" from the Republic of China (Taiwan) Constitution.

At a press conference, Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) and five other DPP lawmakers expressed hope that the proposals will be adopted by an ad hoc committee on constitutional amendments set up by the Legislative Yuan earlier this month.

Among the proposals, the lawmakers said, is a revision to the preface of the Constitution's Additional Amendments section, which was ratified in 1991 "to meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification."

The revised version would instead refer to "the requisites of national development," which the lawmakers said is more in line with Taiwan's current political reality.

Similarly, the lawmakers proposed the removal of a much-debated phrase that occurs both in the main text of the Constitution and in the Additional Articles, which refers to "the territory of the Republic of China, defined by its existing national boundaries," without specifically defining what those boundaries are.

In a 1993 ruling (Constitutional interpretation No. 328: What are the boundaries of the national territory of the ROC?), Taiwan's Constitutional Court effectively codified this ambiguity by ruling that the setting of borders is "a significant political consideration and thus beyond the reach of judicial review."

Under the proposed changes, however, Taiwan's national territory would be redefined as "regions in which the Constitution has validity."

The legislators also said that they would seek to remove references to "provinces" in the Constitution and to amend Article 10 of the Additional Articles, committing the state to prioritizing the use of the name "Taiwan" when participating in international affairs, organizations and events.

Additionally, they suggested adding a 13th Additional Article stating that the national flag, song and emblem are subject to ordinary law rather than Constitutional law, thus allowing them to be changed with a simple majority in the Legislature and the president's approval.

Currently, the specifications of Taiwan's national flag are laid out in Article 6 of the Constitution's main text. The flag's basis in the party flag/emblem of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) -- which led Taiwan as a one-party authoritarian state prior to democratization -- has made it the target of criticism to some in the DPP.

Speaking of the group's proposals, Chen said they had tried to avoid some of the more sensitive topics related to national status, while also removing clearly historical concepts such as unification that do not reflect the current reality.

The other legislators present at the press conference were Yu Tien (余天), Chuang Ching-cheng (莊競程), Huang Hsiu-fang (黃秀芳), Chen Hsiu-pao (陳秀寳) and Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀).

The six lawmakers are associated with a faction of the DPP -- the Taiwan Normal Country Promotion Association -- led by Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃).

The Legislative Yuan's Constitutional Amendment Committee was established on Sept. 14 and is expected to take up proposals on lowering the voting age from 20 to 18 and abolishing the Control Yuan and Examination Yuan during the current legislative session.

The committee consists of 22 lawmakers from the DPP, 14 from the KMT, two from the Taiwan People's Party and one from the New Power Party, with the numbers based on the proportion of their seats in the lawmaking body.

Amending the Constitution is difficult in Taiwan because constitutional revisions must first be approved by at least three-quarters of the lawmakers present at a meeting of the Legislature attended by a minimum of three-quarters of all lawmakers.

If that threshold is met, the proposals are then decided by the people through a public referendum.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Matthew Mazzetta)

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