Thu, Mar 03, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Taiwan outshines China in rights

On Saturday, China, a nation famed for ignoring human rights, is convening its National People's Congress, where Beijing authorities will define Taiwan, a nation respecting human rights, as an inalienable part of China's territory. It also plans to pass "anti-secession" legislation that would criminalize attempts to promote Taiwan independence and create a legal foundation for taking military action against Taiwan.

On Monday, the US State Department issued its 2004 Human Rights Report, in which it expresses disappointment over China's human rights record. It states that China has used the international war on terror as an excuse to clamp down on Uighur separatists and Muslim leaders in Xinjiang Province and on the people of Tibet. It also states that China is ruthlessly detaining political dissidents, including people expressing their views on Internet forums, religious followers, lawyers and other activists.

In contrast, the report affirms Taiwan's human rights achievements, stating that there were no political prisoners last year, nor any political persecution. The report also pointed out that opposition parties protested the election result following the assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), but confirmed that both the presidential election and legislative elections were free and fair.

The report, however, also pointed to the lack of human rights for women and children here. The corruption, rape, domestic violence, prostitution and the smuggling and trade in women and children pointed out in the report do exist here. These problems deserve attention, and hopefully the ruling and opposition camps will modestly accept the US' criticism. But it is worth noting that the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法), the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act (性騷擾防治法) and the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法) were passed by the legislature last year to protect the rights of women and children, showing that the government was aware of these problems prior to the US criticism.

Since the US report contains a 56,000-word section on China and an 11,000-word section on Taiwan, a detailed comparison of their human-rights record is a time-intensive procedure. But even a superficial review makes it clear that Taiwan and China are very different countries. China is demonstrating yet again what kind of country it is -- with a regime that does not respect the opinion of 23 million Taiwanese, wants to include Taiwan in its territory by legislative fiat and plans to provide a legal basis for military attacks on Taiwan.

However, the US report deserves some criticism itself when it comes to its comments about the media here. It cites pan-blue friendly sources saying that because Taiwan's market is not mature enough to support a massive media industry, certain media outlets that depend on media placement by the government and loans from government-controlled banks may not be neutral in their news coverage. What is ignored in this report is that due to the manipulations by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and a majority of media workers being Mainlanders, a large sector of the media has long favored the pan-blue camp. To make its voice heard, the Democratic Progressive Party government must rely on advertising to defend itself.

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