Taiwan's cabinet yesterday approved a proposed revision to the island's referendum law, but removed the people's right to initiate constitutional amendments - including changes to the island's title and flags - in a bid to allay the concerns of the US and Beijing. The revision, which still needs the legislature's final approval, largely makes it easier for Taiwanese citizens to initiate referendums and vote on them. It also gives Taiwanese the right to vote on sensitive issues such as changes to the island's territory. Under the proposed revision, the number of eligible voters required to initiate a petition for an island-wide referendum will be revised downward from 80,000 to 8,000, while the number of votes needed to endorse a petition will be lowered from 800,000 to 300,000. For a referendum to pass, more than 25 per cent of voters must cast their ballots in favour of it, down from the current 50 per cent. But in referendums on changing the island's territorial status, the figure is more than 50 per cent. The revision, originally scheduled to be reviewed by the cabinet last month but delayed due to pressure from Washington and Beijing, was approved almost unanimously during a cabinet meeting, despite objections from Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou. Mr Ma questioned the timing of the review as the legislature's session ends on January 21 and criticised the cabinet for failing to shelve so-called defensive referendums, which give the president the power to initiate emergency referendums on the island's future. Washington and Beijing are concerned President Chen Shui-bian might use the referendum law to declare formal independence from the mainland, a situation Beijing has said would lead to war.