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2004-01-20 19:14:05

    Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian on Tuesday urged the public to go to the polls in "a joyful spirit" for the first referendum in Taiwan March 20 in concert with the presidential election, as they will be writing a new chapter in Taiwan's history.

    The president, who concurrently serves as the chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), made the remarks prior to a regular meeting of the DPP's Central Standing Committee.

    In addition to wishing the people a very prosperous Chinese Lunar New Year, the president also took the chance to elaborate on the significance of the first referendum on Taiwan's history and democratic progress.

    The president said that he appreciated the positive response by the international community after he announced the two questions last Friday -- namely, the possible need to strengthening the nation's anti-missile capabilities and the establishment of a "peaceful and stable" framework for cross-strait interchanges, adding that the referendum will be a milestone in strengthening Taiwan's democracy. "Whether from the angle of Chinese in the world or the international community, Taiwan's economic achievements and democratic improvements have been success stories, and are shared assets of universal values," the president said. "On March 20, 2004, Taiwan will stride toward a historic apex of its democratic development," the president said, adding that "we must have confidence in ourselves."

    Taiwan's progress toward democracy has never been bestowed, but earned through the strong will of its people, he said, citing as examples that Taiwan lifted martial law in 1987 after 38 years, held a comprehensive election of the Legislative Yuan in 1992, held the first popular presidential election in 1996, achieving the first political transfer of power in 2000, and in 2004, there will be the historic referendum.

    He stressed that on March 20, Taiwan people will set a glorious record in its democratic development, saying that, "The core value of democracy will also lie with its people, and not the administrative and legislative branches. Decisions made by each person's vote will not be replaced by any public polls."

    The president also stressed that the two questions that are to be put to a vote demonstrate that, "We are actively trying to maintain the status quo of the Taiwan Strait peace, and stop mainland China from changing the status quo unilaterally by force." "We are also hoping to establish a peaceful and stable framework for cross-strait interactions and solve the long-standing confrontational political stalemate," he added.

    The president also addressed the Beijing authorities, saying, "Taiwan's democracy is made up of shared assets, not liabilities, for the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in the future." "The consensus forged by Taiwan people through the democratic process will be the best basis for both sides to conduct dialogues and communication," he said.

    He said that after long efforts by democratic pioneers, the universal value of the referendum will finally take root in Taiwan, and "the dreams of the people will soon be realized." "On March 20, let us cast our votes in a joyful spirit, believing we are writing a new chapter in Taiwan's history, " the president said.

(By Lilian Wu)


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