Ah Bian's sunset

Updated On: Sep 29, 2006

It's China's hurray definitely. Ah Bian, the pro-independence leader of Taiwan, faced with multiple scandals surrounding his family, failed but high-profile parliamentary votes to fire him and hundreds of thousands of protest marchers calling for his resignation, is trying to put on a brave front but increasingly the sun is setting on him.   

Perhaps this is why he is considering his last card to play - desperate enough to contemplate the possibility of a movement towards declaring Taiwan's independence. If Ah Bian pushes for a new constitution, it may invite a military attack from the mainland.

Chen dangerously raised the issue of a new constitution at a seminar on Sunday 24 September 2006sponsored by his pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). At the seminar, the pro-independence leader said that Taiwanshould revamp its Kuomintang (KMT)-imposed 1947 constitution. Despite its rivalry with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the KMT has always considered Taiwanand Chinato be one entity and Ah Bian seeks to change this.

This worries Ah Bian's political opponents. Shih Ming-teh, a former ally of Chen, who is now leading a campaign to oust him said: "What I'm worried about is that when cornered, he may announce independence for Taiwan." "This is his conspiracy," Shih told a crowd at a Day 17 rally outside the presidential office. While this may be a utilitarian diversion from Ah Bian's own problems, it may have serious consequences. Independence would "bury Taiwan's future," said Shih, a former DPP chairman, referring to Beijing's invasion pledge. "He (Chen) does not love Taiwan. He loves himself more than Taiwan."

Shih is not alone in this warning. Tsai Chin-lung, the KMT's parliamentary whip, said Chen was playing old tricks by raising the constitutional debate at a time of personal political trouble. "Every time Chen Shui-bian has grave problems, he uses this trick to divert public attention," Tsai told reporters. President Chen's own party has also been spooked by this. DPP legislator Lee Wen-chung reminds Chen that he has repeatedly made promises to the United Statesnot to provokeChinaby pushing for independence before he retires in 2008. Calling for a new constitution was not only impractical, Lee said, it would "cost the (DPP) party credibility."

His latest antics have also drawn warning from the USnot to engage in any “unilateral moves” to change the status quo in cross-strait relations.

Chinahas been very unambiguous about this. China's parliament approved a 2005 anti-secession law with clear words authorizing military force against Taiwanif the island moved toward formal independence. Currently China has 800 missiles pointed at Taiwan. Out of these 800 missiles, 233 are placed on reserve, the rest on active duty (meaning ready to fire). Each Chinese missile carries an approximate 1100 pounds of explosives. Taking into account variations between missiles, a total 385 tons of high explosives can be expected from the entire range of missile strikes. So far, Chinahas kept off the fray, cleverly reiterating that Chen's own troubles are an internal issue for Taiwan's own people to decide.

If Chen is desperate enough to consider independence measures, KMT chief Ma Ying-jeou is equally desperate enough to prevent this. Ma said his party was pondering a new motion in parliament to force Chen from office. "The issue needs to be solved by the legislature rather than by people taking to the streets if we hope for a solution acceptable by both sides," Ma told reporters. "The KMT will act to push for a motion for the ousting of President Chen Shui-bian," he said.


Taiwan's Chen faces criticism for moves on new constitution (Channelnewasaia, 25 September 2006)