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2004-01-12 18:46:32

    Paris, Jan. 12 (CNA) It is only natural for democratic countries to have referendums and it is wrong to say that the holding of a referendum will trigger cross-Taiwan Strait war, the head of a Taiwan delegation to Europe said Sunday.

    Byron S.J. Weng, a Presidential Office adviser, made the remarks at a meeting in Paris, the first stop of the delegation's European tour aimed at explaining President Chen Shui-bian's referendum plan in the wake of widespread criticism from various major powers around the globe.

    According to Weng, the holding of a referendum will galvanize the Taiwan people and make them concerned about the fate of the nation.

    There is nothing wrong with Taiwan holding a referendum, but because the Beijing authorities have interpreted the plan as a move toward Taiwan independence and, according to Weng, have influenced the views of the United States, which is currently preoccupied with Iraq and North Korea problems and needs Beijing's assistance in dealing with them, the U.S. has expressed misgivings about the planned referendum. "The government's decision to push through the referendum on March 20 will not be changed because of the views of foreign governments," Weng said.

    Chuang Suo-han, delegation member and vice minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, also addressed concerns on the theme, timing and possible effects of the referendum.

    He said the referendum will be held March 20 to coincide with the presidential election because the turnout rate for the presidential election will be high and it is better to have more people participating in public policy debate. The other reason is to save money, Chuang said, adding that if the referendum is held separately from the presidential election, the cost would reach NT$500 million (US$14.7 million).

    Huang Wei-feng, a delegation member and scholar, said that on one hand, the referendum will galvanize the people and on the other, will declare to the international community that the Taiwan people want a peaceful living environment.

    On the agenda of the referendum, the delegation members said only that they will bring back the views from all sides for the reference of the government.

    Nearly 100 overseas Chinese and students attended the meeting.

    The delegation had already met with two French parliamentarians and was scheduled to meet with news media Monday.

    The delegation's next stop will be Strasbourg, where it will visit the European Parliament before continuing on to Berlin Tuesday.

(By Y.S. Lo and Lilian Wu)


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