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Campaign for the ECFA Referendum

July 10, 2009

Campaign for the ECFA Referendum

Event blog:

[UPDATE July 8, 2009]

We have successfully collected more than 180,000 signatures, well over the threshold of 80,000 required for the 1st stage!!

I. Why Do We Need a Referendum on ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement)?

1. Given that ECFA will have a critical economic, social, security and political impact upon our country,  its fate should be decided   by not only the government, but by the people of Taiwan.

No matter what the content of an ECFA may be, there is no doubt that it will determine the  extent of economic integration between Taiwan and China, and is furthermore bound to change the future fate of Taiwan. It will have a critical economic, social, security and political impact upon our people and our children.

The power to decide something of this importance cannot be left solely in the hands of the president and a minority of the members of the ruling class. Otherwise, the public benefits that all citizens should gain will instead become the private gain of this ruling group.

2. If we are successful in pursuing this referendum, it will establish the principle that any future major cross-strait agreement must undergo the process of a citizens’ referendum, rather than simply be enacted by the government.

This will bring three benefits:

  • Safeguarding our national interests. The referendum will initiate a process of dialogue and discussion.  In order to pass the referendum, the government would have to explain the content of the agreement and policy to  the people and persuade the people that they possess merit. This would alter the current government practice, thus making the policy-making process more transparent and democratic. In addition, Taiwan negotiators, cognizant of the need to “sell” the agreement to the Taiwanese people, can take a more confident and firm position when fighting for Taiwan’s best national interests, instead of merely acquiescing to the Chinese.

  • Ensuring that the current referendum system undergoes reforms. The use of referenda is a common practice in mature democracies. However, in Taiwan, we have the strictest, most constrained referendum law in the world. If we successfully enshrine the principle that any major future cross-strait agreement must undergo a citizens’ referendum, then the legal responsibility to call a referendum could be once again granted to the Executive Branch. It would also “motivate” the government to liberalize the current restrictions on holding referenda if the government wants to see a referendum pass. This would knock down the high wall we currently possess and allow citizens to have a more complete direct democracy.

  • Creating a more peaceful, unified, and harmonized Taiwan. Finally, the relationship between Taiwan and China is the source of domestic political divisions. The best way to resolve these disputes is through a democratic mechanism. Each party has its own approach and there is be no better way than to let the people judge the parties and their approaches.

3.   Direct democracy is our last defense.

Polls show that…

    • 81% of CEOs in Taiwan do not know what the ECFA is (Commonwealth Magazine, May 2009).
    • 63.7% of respondents thought that the ECFA would have an impact on Taiwan’s sovereignty, and that it should ultimately be decided through a referendum (DPP Poll in March, 2009).
    • 89.2% of respondents believe that the policy should be fully discussed and overseen by the Legislative Yuan, and 78.2% agreed that the ruling party should reach consensus with the opposition before negotiating deals like ECFA (DPP Poll in March, 2009).
    • 80.2% of respondents opposed signing a cross-strait agreement, like ECFA, under the One-China Principle (DPP Poll in March, 2009).

    However, President Ma said that it’s imperative to sign an ECFA with China. He further stated that it must be signed by the end of this year, or perhaps even this summer. He also added that no referendum is needed on the ECFA.

    When President Ma becomes the KMT Party Chairman, he will subsequently have gained control over the government, the legislature ,and the military. Given that the ruling party holds 75% of the seats in the legislature, it leaves no room for the opposition to oppose or even to propose a bill. Moreover, the government has neglected the people’s opinion, as is demonstrated  by polls, the media, town meetings, the “Taiwan Citizens’ Conference on National Affairs,” rallies, and street protests. What tool do we have left in the democratic system to express our concerns or to check the power of government? The answer is direct democracy: the referendum. If the ruling group really is interested in selling out Taiwan, then only a democratic mechanism can serve as a last line of defense to guard Taiwan. This is what the Democratic Progressive Party means when it advocates the principle of “Using Democracy to Protect Taiwan.”

    II. Overview of the referendum system in Taiwan:

    The Referendum Act stipulates that in order to hold a referendum in Taiwan, one must complete the following steps:

    Step 1: Collect the signatures of 0.5% of eligible voters (approximately 80,000 people) to apply to hold a referendum.

    Our goal is to collect 100,000 signatures by the end of June.

    Step 2: Send the petitions to the Central Election Committee’s Referendum Review Committee for review.

    Step 3: If the proposal passes the review, then one must collect the signatures of 5% of eligible voters (approximately 800,000 people) within six months to have the referendum actually put to a vote.

    If the proposal is rejected by the Committee, then an administrative appeal can be filed with the Executive Yuan.

    Step 4: 50% of eligible voters (approximately 8,000,000 people) must vote on the referendum for the vote to be valid.

    II. How Will We Do It? Join the 100,000 Strong “ECFA Referendum Vanguard” Campaign

    Facing these high thresholds – whether one is considering the 1 million petitioners or 8 million voters – we  need to attract participatory support that surmounts the green-blue political lines. It is therefore necessary that  this referendum campaign permeates throughout Taiwanese society. Thus, we are now recruiting 100,000 volunteers (our ‘ECFA Referendum vanguard’) to get the petition drive started. (Please see “How can I become part of the ‘ECFA Referendum vanguard’?”

    For those 100,000 volunteers comprising the vanguard, there are three major tasks:

    1. Successfully collect 100,000 signatures for the first stage of the petition, as required for holding a referendum;

    2. Once the Referendum Commission has accepted the petition as valid, each person comprising the vanguard of 100,000 petitioners will use his/her network to attract 10 additional voters. In this manner we can surmount the second hurdle placed before us, in order to put forth a referendum to all the people.

    3. Continue to push for the “Safeguard Taiwan! Oppose the ‘Lean-towards-China’ Policy” campaign among the people.

    This is a challenging task. In fact, it is even more daunting than the challenge of getting 600,000 people to participate in our street demonstration on May 17th. However, faced with a president and ruling party that pays no attention to the people, we must rise up, united, and show our great strength.

    We Want a Referendum on ECFA!

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