COMMITTEE CURVE BALL:Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen headed off contentious debate by pushing a raft of policy proposals to a committee
By Chris Wang / Staff reporter
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday sent all the proposals in the national party congress regarding the DPP’s China policy, including the widely discussed freezing of its Taiwan independence clause, to the party’s Central Executive Committee without discussion, defusing potential tension surrounding the issue despite drawing criticism from party members.
Citing time constraints, Tsai, who presided over the meeting, proposed to send the initiatives to the committee because there was “not enough time left for a thorough discussion over the much-disputed and important issue regarding changing the party charter.”
Only about 20 minutes were left in the scheduled 60-minute meeting before the party representatives were set to take hours voting for the new members of the committee and the Central Standing Committee, the DPP’s decisionmaking bodies.
Several members briefly protested Tsai’s move and voiced their displeasure, despite the majority of the hundreds of representatives applauding to show their agreement with Tsai’s decision.
“If the Central Executive Committee decides that a wide range of discussion and opinion-gathering is necessary, we don’t rule out organizing an extraordinary party congress,” Tsai added.
Among the dozen items on the meeting’s agenda, the proposals related to the Taiwan independence clause in the party charter and its China policy were the focal point of the congress, as the dispute over the proposal has been going on for months and members with different ideologies challenged each other with their initiatives.
The contentious items included a proposal to freeze the independence clause — which calls for the establishment of a republic of Taiwan — to boost the party’s chance of returning to power; a proposal that called for the next presidential candidate to submit an “independence timetable” and a proposed “resolution on development across the Taiwan Strait” to help the nation join international organizations.
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) also launched a motion — seen as a retaliation to the “freezing independence clause” proposal — that called for the implementation of the DPP’s 2007 resolution on making Taiwan a normal country. The initiative was also sent to the Central Executive Committee.
In response to reporters’ questions after the meeting, Tsai insisted that her decision was appropriate, saying that the DPP charter had been amended eight times since its founding in 1986 and not once had the charter been amended without comprehensive discussions.
Almost all DPP heavyweights saw freezing the clause as unnecessary, with Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) saying before the meeting that “whether or not [freezing the independence charter] would shorten the DPP’s ‘last mile’ of returning to power should be carefully examined.”
Former party chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former premier Yu Shyi-kun opposed the proposal. Yu said it would be “impossible” for the proposal to be passed because Taiwanese independence was one of the DPP’s core values.
The national congress was the first gathering of party representatives across the nation since Tsai assumed the party’s helm in May.
In her opening remarks, Tsai said Taiwanese “have had enough” of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, as he has wasted the past six years on political infighting and the pursuit of his presidential legacy by bringing Taiwan closer to China without regard for the consequences.