Taiwan opposition's pro-independence clause still retains symbolic value

Taiwan opposition's pro-independence clause still retains symbolic value

Taiwan has its own constitution, government, territory, and 23 million people who think that it is a sovereign country. But all this does not seem to meet the standard of an officially independent country.

As no country exists in a vacuum without other political entities, a country's independence is paradoxically defined by, and dependent on, its international relations. That is, one's independence must be internationally recognised - and few foreign states recognise Taiwan as a nation, except for a cohort of small allies whose views on cross-strait ties usually hold little weight within the international community.

The incessant row over Taiwan's independence again raised eyebrows earlier this week when Ker Chien-ming, a leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), proposed that his party formally "freeze" the pro-Taiwan independence clause in its charter.

His rationale is that the pro-independence clause has completed its "historical mission" and the party should move on with an eye to improving relations with the mainland Chinese regime.

The DPP must not let the Kuomintang (KMT) dominate Taiwan's ties with China, and must have a say in the debate, he argued.

Ker's proposal has received little support from his fellow caucus-members, many of whom reacted quickly and angrily to his attempt to shun what they view as one of the party's core values.

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang has played down the issue, saying the party should not bicker over the pro-independence clause at all because Taiwan is already a sovereign country - an official line embraced by both the DPP and the KMT as well as by the general public.

Former Vice President Annette Lu, a DPP stalwart, noted that the clause, introduced in 1991, states that Taiwan's transition to a republic needs to be decided by popular vote.

She argues that when Taiwan conducted its first-ever presidential election by popular vote in 1996, it was already a de facto popular vote in favour of Taiwan's independence. In 1999, the DPP actually overrode the pro-independence clause by introducing a resolution that begins by proclaiming that "Taiwan is a sovereign country." What she means is that Ker's move is unnecessary, as the clause is already "irrelevant."

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