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March 30, 2017

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Group to push for new Constitution

A pro-independence citizen's organization is planning to launch a national movement to push for the creation of a new Constitution this Saturday.

The Taiwan Society North, a grassroots organization, announced yesterday that it will link up with social organizations all over the island and formally launch a "People's Movement for a New Constitution" on June 26.

Former President Lee Teng-hui has been invited to lend his support to the movement and make a formal statement at the opening ceremony.

However, organizers said they believed a new Constitution was not necessarily associated with Taiwan independence.

Social activists, including a noted supporter of Taiwan independence and national policy adviser to President Chen Shui-bian Koo Kwang-min and head of Taiwan Society North and also a national policy adviser to the president, Wu Shuh-min, were present at a press conference yesterday to announce these plans.

The Taiwan Society North released a statement expressing doubts about the effectiveness of Chen's plans to reform the Constitution outlined in his inaugural speech May 20.

In the speech Chen said the island's Constitution would be reformed and streamlined in the interests of governmental efficiency according to existing legal procedures, which allow for the National Assembly to deliberate and revise any changes to the island's laws.

This proposal was in stark contrast to Chen's election campaign promise to hold a referendum on a new Constitution.

Chen is believed to have watered down his plans for constitutional reform under pressure from the U.S. and China, which saw a new Constitution endorsed by a referendum as a further step towards Taiwan independence.

The Taiwan Society North statement said three quarters of National Assembly members would need to form a consensus before any changes to the Constitution took place — but currently the island's warring political parties were at loggerheads.

"Thereupon, to resolve this political chaos, we must return to the idea of a 'new Constitution' that is suited to Taiwan's actual circumstances," the statement said.

Koo said he believed a new Constitution would only be significant if it was determined by the island's 23 million people.

While he understood that Chen had been forced to cave in to U.S. pressure and water down his plans for constitutional reform in his inaugural speech, Koo said that he thought the government needed to keep moving forward with its plans for a new Constitution or else it would move backwards.

Wu said that Taiwan needed to reform its Constitution, the National Assembly and the media. He said he believed this kind of reform could only be achieved through people power.

Pointing to some of opposition leader Lien Chan's election campaign rhetoric as evidence, Wu's deputy, Chen Yi-shen said the Kuomintang also supported some areas of constitutional change.

"This shows that there is some consensus among the opposition parties on constitutional change and it does not amount to Taiwan independence," Chen said.

Saturday's launch will coincide with the third anniversary of the founding of the society.

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