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President Chen Shui-bian's Third Press Conference ( excerpt : cross-strait relations)

  • Date:2000-09-06

Q.1 During your stay abroad, there was a major domestic issue regarding the chairmanship of the National Unification Council. The chairman is the president, according to the Statute for the Establishment. What is your opinion now? On the other hand, acting Secretary-General Chen thought that, since the Guidelines for National Unification were made in 1989, it is time to revise them. What is your personal opinion? In the future, how can we distinguish between the functions and responsibilities of the National Unification Council and those of the Multiparty Task Force?

A: I sincerely appreciate everyone's concern and comments about the National Unification Council, the Guidelines for National Unification, and related issues. In my inaugural address on May 20, 2000, I already publicly declared that so long as the Communist regime does not use military force against Taiwan, the National Unification Council and the Guidelines for National Unification will not be abolished. This statement has not changed. Although there are no questions regarding abolition, there are other issues that we must face, which cannot be avoided. As there are still many people who are confused about these issues, I would like to take this opportunity to give appropriate explanations and guidance.

For example, some people misperceive the National Unification Council as the highest policy-making and ultimate decision-making agency on cross-strait policy. In reality, however, the National Unification Council is simply another consultative body, much like the Multiparty Task Force, the National Human Rights Consultation Task Force, and the Science and Technology Consultation Task Force. All of these organizations are merely consultative agencies to the president. Thus, the National Unification Council is not the final decision-making body on cross-strait issues, nor is it the highest policy-making agency.

Another popular misconception is the belief that the National Unification Council is a sacred and inviolable entity. In actuality, the Establishing Guidelines for the National Unification Council proclaimed by the president in 1990 have been continuously revised and were changed in 1993, 1995, and 1997. Since the Establishing Guidelines for the National Unification Council have already been revised three times, they are obviously not sacred or inviolable.

Members of the National Unification Council serve for terms of one year, and those one-year terms have now been completed. Naturally, if the council continues to exist, we must either reappoint its members or appoint new ones. Before the Establishing Guidelines for the National Unification Council are abolished and before any of its articles are changed, the second article of the Establishing Guidelines states that the president should serve as the chairman of the National Unification Council. This is a fact. However, I must point out that the council is but one of several consultative agencies to the president, none of which are led by the president. The person in charge of the Multiparty Task Force is Lee Yuan-tseh, the president of the Academia Sinica; and the convenor of the National Human Rights Consultation Task Force and the Science and Technology Consultation Task Force is Vice President Lu. In other words, it is not an absolute necessity for the president to serve as the chairman of a consultative agency, committee, or task force. Thus, I have no prejudices or biases with regard to serving as the chairman of the National Unification Council. I am willing to listen to different views.

However, the Multiparty Task Force is currently being actively promoted. The first meeting will be held soon, and I will be participating to give my encouragement and support. After all, the first article in the Establishing Guidelines for the National Unification Council clearly states the reason why the president established the National Unification Council: "Under the principles of freedom and democracy, to accelerate national unification, conduct research, and provide consultation on guiding principles." Although its purposes are quite clear, has it really been carried out? Under the principles of freedom and democracy, the purpose for establishing the National Unification Council was to accelerate national unification. Was this policy objective carried out under the principles of freedom and democracy? Did they get the people’s consent and majority support? Were the procedures discussed from top to bottom? Many different opinions have arisen on this subject that need to be further discussed. Indeed, there are currently many different domestic views and ideologies with regard to national status, cross-strait relations, and Taiwan's future, and some of them are diametrically opposed to one another. As the president of a democratic state, I must review all of these differing opinions.

Thus, we hope that the Multiparty Task Force can establish a consensus from top to bottom amongst the government, political parties, and the public with respect to cross-strait relations, Taiwan's future, our national status, and various ethnic problems. I think that the smooth and efficient operation of the Multiparty Task Force should be our current priority and fully support President Lee Yuan-tseh's direction for its future operations. I am here to appeal to our countrymen, all parties, and all factions, to support and participate in the Multiparty Task Force. The Multiparty Task Force is not even operational yet. Do we really want to brush it aside so quickly to return to the disputes of the National Unification Council? We need to examine and face many things. For example, did the past government follow the Guidelines for National Unification and the National Unification Council? I think that many things have become too holy. In fact, the main issue is not the National Unification Council or the Guidelines for National Unification; rather, the main issue is on practical, day-to-day operations. What can we do?

Today, many people can already travel to the Chinese mainland, to Shanghai or Beijing, and talk with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party about cross-strait relations. Why is it that we have no way to shake hands at home, to meet with each other to discuss national affairs, to form a consensus between our government and political parties on cross-strait relations? Is it possible that domestic politics are more important than the Chinese Communists and Zhongnanhai? Thus, I sincerely hope all parties and factions can eliminate their prejudices to discuss national affairs, as it is not only our right to do so, but our obligation and responsibility.

Q.7 It was the position and hope of the previous administration that the Chinese mainland and Taiwan could be unified someday under democracy. However, you have previously mentioned that unification is but one of several options. Does this imply that unification might not be possible?

A: The new administration has already clearly explained this issue. As I said in my inaugural speech on May 20, I hope the leaders on both sides can deal with the future question of "one China" using their wisdom and creativity under the basic principles of democracy and parity. I believe that the future development of both cross-strait relations and Taiwan itself will follow this direction. Regardless, though, the free will of the people on Taiwan must be respected. That is to say, no country, no government, no political party, and certainly no individual can make a decision for the 23 million people on Taiwan without their consent. In the past, US President Bill Clinton stated quite clearly that any final resolution to the cross-strait situation must be made with the consent of the people on Taiwan. Similarly, the US presidential candidates from both the Democratic and Republican Parties have adopted the same position in their respective campaign platforms: that the will of the people on Taiwan must be respected. I mentioned earlier that the first article of the National Unification Commission Establishment Guideline is to speed up the unification process. Does this article comply with the principles of freedom and democracy? Are the people on Taiwan choosing to unite with the Chinese mainland out of their own free will? Is unification with the Chinese mainland a choice being made by the 23 million people on Taiwan under democracy? I firmly believe that democracy, freedom, and human rights are all universal values, and thus no country, government, political party, or individual can violate them. As a new leader in Taiwan and as president of the Republic of China, I must seek a consensus of the people, including everyone in the government and the general public itself. We do not have any preconditions, nor can there be any--thus, anything is possible. However, any decision must conform to the choice of the 23 million people on Taiwan and abide by the principles of freedom and democracy.

Q8:You mentioned earlier the difficulty of forming a domestic consensus on cross-strait policy. Recently, Qian Qichen, the vice premier of the Chinese mainland, gave a new interpretation of the "one-China" principle. In the second point of this new interpretation, he says, "both mainland China and Taiwan belong to one China." What is your response to this statement? What information do you think he is trying to convey to Taiwan?

A: It is especially important that we remind everyone to be cautious of the different remarks made by mainland Chinese officials, as it is virtually impossible to know for sure whose statements are true and final and who actually represents their government's policy. The remarks to visiting groups from Taiwan are often omitted from formal documents and press releases on the mainland, so how accountable are such statements? Furthermore, we have noticed that many international media, research institutes, and experts have expressed a difference between what the Beijing authorities say in their statements to domestic audiences and what they say internationally with regard to Taiwan. Indeed, what they say to the people on Taiwan is often contrary to what they tell the international community. If the so-called "one China" principle, definition, or meaning has changed, then let me ask, what about the "one China" repeatedly mentioned in their communiques with over 160 nations that have formal diplomatic relations with the Chinese mainland? The recent information we have regarding Beijing's orders to their foreign embassies still refers to a so-called "one China"--the People's Republic of China. If today, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland are both part of "one China," this "one China" refers to the People's Republic of China, and the People's Republic of China is the sole, legitimate government for all of China--if none of this has changed in their policies and communiques, and if we merely listen to their self-serving statements and believe them, then aren't we placing ourselves in a very dangerous position? The Beijing leaders have different statements for different groups of people. However, we will continue to act with sincerity, creativity, and wisdom, hoping that Beijing will eventually respond in kind. We wish to follow the spirit of dialogue and exchange and set aside controversies, so that the two sides can meet and talk to improve cross-strait relations, while seeking a mutually acceptable definition of "one China." I wholeheartedly believe that such a definition cannot be unilaterally decided and manipulated by any single nation, political party, or people. We must meet and discuss it together. The outcome is true and final only when it is acceptable to both sides. If it is just a unilateral proposition imposed by one side on the other, then it is not compatible with democracy, freedom, and parity. Thus, we would like to encourage and commend the Beijing authorities to seek a mutually acceptable meaning and definition. Thank you!

Q10: You just mentioned that the future for both the people on Taiwan and cross-strait relations should respect the will of the people on Taiwan. By what means do you hope to understand the will of the people? You also said that such a problem should be discussed at a roundtable meeting attended by the leaders of all three major political parties and a special Supra-party Task Force. However, some political parties are not giving their support to a Supra-party Task Force. Under such circumstances, do you think that a consensus reached by the two mechanisms just stated can really represent the will of the people? Or do you think that other means should be considered, such as a plebiscite, to truly reflect the will and desires of the people? Indeed, if the two mechanisms reach completely different conclusions, can using a plebiscite be completely ruled out?

A: A public opinion poll conducted yesterday indicated that more than 80 percent of the people on Taiwan believe we should join the United Nations. This is news that the Chinese communists do not like to read. In fact, not only do they dislike it, but they have also consistently boycotted and stymied any attempt made by the ROC to participate in any international organization, including the United Nations. This poll also revealed that between 70 and 80 percent of the people on Taiwan prefer to maintain the status quo, regardless of what direction cross-strait relations take in the future. The Beijing authorities, however, want us to accept their "one-China" principle, which would downgrade Taiwan as a part of the PRC. They also want us to accept their so-called "one country, two systems" formula, which would make Taiwan another Hong Kong or Macao. All of these things obviously violate the will of the majority of the people on Taiwan.

We are encouraged, however, by the remarks made by both the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States--and especially those made by President Clinton--that any final resolution to cross-strait issues must respect the will of the people on Taiwan. Public opinion polls currently indicate that most of the people on Taiwan do not wish to be a part of the Chinese mainland, and this is a fact that neither the US government nor the US people can force us to change. Thus, during my transit through the US, Chairman Richard Bush welcomed us on behalf of the US government and people. At that time, he told me that the US government expressed its utmost support and admiration for our new government's management of cross-strait relations. Consequently, we do not feel that current cross-strait relations are deteriorating, but rather, believe that we are still in control of the situation.

What we must do now is show our wisdom and creativity and make further breakthroughs and improvements. However, cross-strait relations are not a unilateral problem, but a bilateral one. On my overseas trip, we were also very aware that the Chinese Communists were showing restraint in their normal military exercises and at their Beidaihe meeting. I think both of these actions convey a strong message, and we would like to view that message from a positive perspective. Former President Lee Teng-hui could not resolve the cross-strait issue during his entire twelve years in office. However, if the new government can stabilize the situation in a mere 100 days, we think it is definitely possible to carry cross-strait normalization even further. The most important thing is to reach a domestic consensus on the matter. We must have absolute democracy from the bottom up. Above all, we need to have domestic unity. I often say that the Beijing authorities play an important role in current cross-strait issues, but we ourselves play an even more important role. Whether cross-strait issues can be smoothly resolved will depend on a domestic consensus. I would like to listen to the opinions of more people, and I sincerely hope that after the Supra-party Task Force begins operations, that it will be easier to reach a domestic consensus. Once again, I would like to call upon every political party to eliminate their ideological differences and party interests and give the interests of the nation and the people their first priority. I am confident that such a change in thought will have a positive impact on the future of both Taiwan and cross-strait relations.