Presbyterian Church group blasts 'backward' referendum act revisions

2019/06/18 20:14:29 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Presbyterian Church group blasts 'backward' referendum act revisions

Taipei, June 18 (CNA) The Democratic Front Alliance, a Presbyterian Church-affiliated organization in Taiwan, criticized the Legislative Yuan Tuesday for passing amendments to the Referendum Act, saying it represents a reverse for Taiwan's democracy as the government only revised the law because it is unhappy with last year's referendum results.

The Presbyterian Church, the largest Protestant denomination Church in Taiwan, has been associated with the Taiwan democracy movement for decades and historically has strong ties with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The amendment to the Referendum Act passed by the DPP-controlled Legislative Yuan on Monday only allows national referendums to be held on the fourth Saturday of August every two years, starting in 2021.

That means no referendums calling attention to sensitive issues the government would rather avoid will be included on the ballot when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) runs for re-election in January 2020.

Weng Shih-chun (翁世俊), a pastor with Alliance for Democratic Front, said at a press conference that by forcing the referendum law revision through the legislature the government has limited the space available for people to exercise their free will.

Weng said Taiwan's government could increase the number of ballot boxes or manpower if it is genuinely concerned it will take too long for voters to cast their ballots when referendums are held on the same day as the election.

It took up to two hours to vote in elections on Nov. 24 last year, including polls for nine different levels of local government offices and 10 referendums.

Also at the press conference, Pastor Ji Jia-sheng (机嘉勝) of the Presbyterian Church, said passing the amendments to the Referendum Act constitutes giving up on democracy.

He also said that such actions were in stark contrast to Hong Kongers who have been demanding the scrapping of a proposed extradition law -- which would allow extradition to mainland China.

Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩), president of the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, an anti-same-sex marriage group, said at the conference that it is absurd the Legislative Yuan passed the amendments in a single day.

The government does not want the referendum result to influence the presidential election, he contended.

In last year's 'nine-in-one' elections, the DPP suffered a crushing defeat, taking only six of 22 city and county seats nationwide, while the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) won 15.

In the six special municipalities, the DPP was unseated in Taichung and in Kaohsiung, the latter a city it had controlled for over 20 years.

On June 6 and 16, Hong Kongers protested a controversial extradition bill that would allow people in the former British territory to be sent to China to face trial, which has raised concerns because of a widespread lack of trust in China's judiciary system.

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, offered a "sincere and solemn" apology to the people of the territory on Tuesday and said unless the government is able to address concerns about the proposed law "we will not proceed with the legislative exercise again."

(By Wu Hsin-yun and Chung Yu-chen)

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