Monday, June 23, 2008

Constitutional Interpretation 644: Will There Be a "Chinese Reunification Party" on Kinmen?

Constitutional Interpretation 644: Will There Be a "Chinese Reunification Party" on Kinmen?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 23, 2008

Taiwan may soon legalize the establishment of a Communist Party or Taiwan Independence Party.

Last Friday the Council of Grand Justices issued Constitutional Interpretation 644. It ruled that provisions prohibiting civic groups from "advocating Communism or separatism" were inconsistent with the people's right to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression, as specified in the constitution, and should be considered null and void from this day forward.

In other words, future advocates of Communism or Taiwan independence, or Kinmen, Matsu, or Penghu's separatism or independence, must be permitted to form officially recognized political parties. The Ministry of the Interior may not reject their applications.

On the one hand, this is an important milestone in democracy. On the other hand, this is also a profound challenge to our system of constitutional government. For example, suppose one day the island elects a County Magistrate who belongs to a "Chinese Reunification Party " or a "Kinmen Independence Party?" That may not lead to immediate reunification or independence. But it will certainly affect Taiwan's political situation and cross-strait relations.

Communism and Taiwan independence are Taiwan's two major political problems. People may have different about Communism's theory of class struggle. But a Taiwanese Communist Party working in conjunction with the Chinese Communist Party could enjoy considerable leverage in cross-strait affairs. Conversely, because parties advocating Taiwan independence enjoy the right to freedom of association, they will inevitably have an impact upon Taiwan's political spectrum and political climate.

Constitutional Interpretation 644 seems progressive. In fact it lags behind current realities. Take its declaration regarding the advocacy of Taiwan independence. The DPP already has a "Taiwan Independence Party Constitution." The Taiwan Independence Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union are also well-known Taiwan independence parties. Take its declaration regarding the advocacy of Communism. Many social movements have left-wing political colors. They also have links with mainland China. Members of the public occasionally drive sound trucks displaying PRC flags broadcasting leftist slogans. No one seems terribly concerned.

Constitutional Interpretation 644 does not establish any new civil right. It merely acknowledges the existing political reality. In fact, Taiwan's politics have already gone beyond the issue of whether one may advocate Taiwan independence or Communism. Instead the issue is how to cope with Taiwan independence and Communism, given a framework of democracy.

Regarding Taiwan independence, the amending of the "100 Criminal Laws" in 1992 already made Taiwan independence thought crimes and Taiwan independence speech crimes a thing of the past. The Taiwan Independence Alliance and other such groups are highly active. But this does not mean advocacy of Taiwan independence is about to become the Conventional Wisdom. Dealing with Taiwan independence using democratic means has allowed Taiwan independence to achieve a higher media profile, but it has actually weakened Taiwan independence in actual substance. For example, how long has it been since we have heard the call for "Taiwan independence nation-building?" The term has been replaced by such vague terms as the "Rectification of Names and Authoring of a New Constitution." or the "Normalization of the Nation." The January 2008 Legislative Elections and March Presidential Election could be considered a repudiation of Chen Shui-bian and the DPP's Taiwan independence political machinations by a majority of public at the polls. One might say that ever since the amendment of the "100 Criminal Laws," the laws no longer prohibited Taiwan independence. Instead Taiwan independence has been repudiated by the public at the ballot box. It has led the DPP stepping down. If the next round of legislative elections are conducted according to the "single constituency, two vote" system, and the presidential election is changed to an "absolute majority" system, then the fate of the Taiwan independence movement and the direction of the nation will be decided via democratic elections.

Constitutional Interpreation 644 grants Communist Parties freedom of association. It also allows the public to advocate dividing the nation. Its impact is difficult to gauge. Germany prohibits the reestablishment of the Nazi Party. The United States has not allowed the establishment of a Communist Party. All of these constitute restrictions on freedom. As noted earlier, suppose one day a "Kinmen Chinese Reunification Party" or "Kinmen Independence Party" wins the parliamentary elections and county magistrate elections? Suppose one day, given "China's rise," a "Taiwan Communist Party" appears? Suppose it makes a persuasive case for reunification with the mainland? This will be one of many unpredictable consequences of Taiwan's democracy.

Constitutional Interpretation 644 deserves to be affirmed. But it will test Taiwan's democratic system. As mentioned above, The Council of Supreme Justices has merely acknowledged existing political realities. Over the past 20 years Taiwan's democratic system has accumulated considerable experience in coping with Taiwan independence and Communism. Taiwan's political consensus is that Taiwan's future must be the joint decision of 23 million people. If that is the case, then the value of Taiwan independence and Communism will also be decided by 23 million people.

Freedom comes first. especially freedom of association. If one day a real Communist Party and a real Taiwan independence party appear on Taiwan, democracy must reign supreme. Taiwan's fortunes, for better or worse, and Taiwan's direction, must remain in the hands of 23 million people.

2008.06.23 03:12 am