Hau Pei-tsun tells rally Taiwan must not strive to be an independent country Constitutional amendments should not be used as a pretext for declaring independence, former Taiwanese premier Hau Pei-tsun said yesterday. Making a rare public appearance, Mr Hau said: 'We strongly oppose any form of writing a new constitution, or any failure to follow the constitutional procedures to revise the constitution, or using amendments as a cover to institute a new constitution.' Last week Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian reaffirmed his commitment to seeking a new constitution by saying that amendments pave the way for a new charter in 2008. Mr Hau, a former military strongman, was addressing a gathering of about 2,000 retired generals at a park in Taipei to mark the 80th anniversary of the elite Whampoa Military Academy. The event was held to counter the official celebration scheduled to be held by the academy on Wednesday and presided over by Mr Chen. Mr Hau's comments reflect the concerns of a group of mostly mainland-born and pro-unification military veterans who are concerned that the government of Mr Chen will eventually turn Taiwan into an independent country. 'We vow to protect the democratic principles of the Republic of China and will never become the sinners responsible for splitting the nation,' Mr Hau told the veteran generals and officers at the rally. Mr Hau said the Taiwanese constitution was the foundation of freedom and democracy in Taiwan and it alone could ensure peace across the Taiwan Strait. 'Any attempts to try to change the ROC constitution and cross-strait status quo would bring disaster to the 23 million people of Taiwan,' he said. Mr Hau said the president, as the leader of the island's armed forces, must abide by the constitution which hundreds of thousands of soldiers had protected with their lives. He said if the troops did not have confidence and trust in their leader, the kind of advanced weapons the island was currently seeking to fend off any mainland attack would be useless. Yesterday's rally was attended by a number of former high-ranking generals, including former political warfare director Wang Sheng and former air force commander-in-chief Lin Wen-li. Most of the senior generals, who followed the late General Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan after the end of the civil war in 1949, graduated from the academy. Several military veterans yesterday said that while they had been invited to the academy's official celebration in Fengshan, southern Taiwan, they would deliberately not attend because of their opposition to Mr Chen. Meanwhile, a presidential adviser yesterday criticised Mr Chen for failing to live up to his initial pledge to create a new constitution in 2006 and implement it in 2008. 'What President Chen said in his May 20 inauguration address did not match what he previously said - that he would push for a referendum to create a new constitution,' said Koo Kuan-min. 'Now it appears that he wants to change the constitution instead of instituting a new one.'