Pro-independence group proposes referendums on constitutional reform

Taiwan New Constitution Foundation Executive Director Lin Yi-cheng (second from right)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The pro-independence Taiwan New Constitution Foundation (TNC) submitted proposals to the Central Election Commission (CEC) Thursday for referendums on whether Taiwan’s constitution, which it said roots the country’s identity in a defunct political reality, should be reformed or replaced.

Speaking at CEC headquarters, TNC Executive Director Lin Yi-cheng (林宜正) said the non-binding referendums ask voters two questions: “Do you support the president initiating a constitutional reform process for the country?” and “Do you support the president pushing for the establishment of a new constitution reflecting Taiwan’s current reality?”

Lin said he had submitted over 3,000 signatures in support of each of the referendums from residents in all of Taiwan’s cities and counties.

If the Taiwanese people approve these referendums, it will be possible to begin a discussion about what a new constitution should contain, he said.

Regarding China, there is “room for discussion” on how a new constitution would define that relationship, Lin said, adding that China “has no reason to be nervous.”

On Tuesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office criticized the proposals, saying Taiwan independence “goes against the tide of history and will only lead to a dead-end.”

Lin, however, downplayed concerns that the referendums would aggravate already strained ties with China. Instead, he cited unspecified opinion surveys showing that 70 percent of Taiwanese favor establishing a new constitution that better reflects Taiwan’s political status.

Thirty years ago, only 13 percent of the population identified as Taiwanese. After 30 years of democracy, that number has risen to 83 percent, he said.

In addition to the question of identity, Lin argued that the way in which the Republic of China’s (Taiwan) constitution treats China and Taiwan as a single country (albeit, under R.O.C. sovereignty) has provided a legal basis for Taiwan to be excluded from international organizations.

The political realities described in that document “could not be further from our current situation,” he said.

Taiwan’s Referendum Act establishes a three-stage process for holding national referendums.

In the first stage, initiators must submit signatures representing one-ten thousandth of the total electorate at the time of the last election — or 1,931 signatures, based on the 19.31 million eligible voters in Taiwan’s January 2020 elections.

In the second stage, the threshold increases to 1.5 percent of the total electorate, or 289,667 total signatures. In the final stage, a national vote is called, with a petition becoming valid if a majority vote in favor with over 25 percent of the electorate — around 4.8 million people — casting ballots.

The next possible date for holding a referendum is Aug. 28, 2021.