Taiwan's DPP delays decision over freezing independence stance

Proposal to freeze push for nationhood needs more discussion, chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen says, avoiding showdown with hard-core bloc

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 5:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 5:30am

Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has put off a decision on a controversial proposal to "freeze" its long-held call for nationhood.

The party is preparing for local elections and any change to its platform risks alienating hard-core supporters of independence.

At a national congress held at the Taipei International Conference Centre, party chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen delayed decision on the thorny issue by calling for the central executive committee to discuss the proposal in the future.

"As the election of the central executive committee will be held at 3pm and we only have 20 minutes left, [I] suggest that several proposals, including the change of the party charter and resolution … be dealt with by the … committee" in the future, Tsai said.

The proposal to freeze the independence clause was raised by 40 elite party members, including Dr Tung Chen-yuan, former vice-chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, earlier last month.

They argue Taiwan has long been sovereign and its de facto independence status made it unnecessary for the DPP to seek the creation of a new nation.

Freezing the sensitive clause could lead to better relations between the DPP and Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province subject to eventual union, by force if necessary.

Beijing maintains it will not deal with any party that supports independence.

Shortly after Tsai called for review of the proposal, the same 40 members issued a statement asking the DPP to "honestly" examine itself and resolve the issue if it wanted to return to leadership.

"Freezing the clause does not necessary mean giving up Taiwanese independence, but it tells others that Taiwan - whose title is 'Republic of China' has long been independent and is not under the jurisdiction of the 'People's Republic of China'," the statement said.

Pundits said sending the proposal to the executive committee for handling would protect Tsai from mounting criticism by the hard-core pro-independence camp. Its members have either raised counterproposals demanding the DPP establish the Taiwanese republic when it returns to power or called for the bloc to challenge Tsai for leadership of the party.

"Tsai needs to concentrate on the year-end polls, where a [strong] outcome is highly important to ensure the DPP can return to power in 2016," in the presidential election, said Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international affairs and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei.

Wang said Tsai's faction needed to win three seats on the central standing committee to consolidate her power and ensure she could once again represent the party in the presidential race. Tsai was the DPP's candidate in its unsuccessful campaign against Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in 2012.

Taiwan and the mainland had been bitter rivals since the Communists took over the mainland by driving the defeated Nationalist or Kuomintang forces to Taiwan at the end of a civil war in 1949.