The 59th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was on Monday, which was also the 28th anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident. Taiwan has evolved from being ruled by a dictatorial regime that declared martial law and violated human rights into a democratic state that protects human rights.
But there is still the threat that Taiwan's human rights will be violated by China. The public must come to realize the importance of establishing Taiwan's status as a sovereign country for the protection of the human rights of Taiwanese.
Sovereignty means that a country has absolute and unlimited power within its own borders and that other countries cannot interfere with its national affairs. In democratic countries, that power rests with the people. Hence, there is a close relationship between sovereignty and human rights.
If sovereignty over a territory falls into the hands of a dictatorial or a foreign regime, human rights are no longer protected by democracy and lose their foothold. If the sovereignty of a country is not firmly established, or is threatened, the fate of the public can easily become dominated by other countries. Loss of sovereignty is a grave threat to human rights.
Sovereignty is the fundamental right of a country, and other countries must respect this right. This means national sovereignty should include the right to exist, the right to independence and the right to equality, as laid down in the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Nations that the American Institute of International Law adopted in 1916. These rights are closely related to the individual rights of every citizen of a country.
If a country loses its sovereignty, it can become a colony or tributary to another country. When the inhabitants of a country lose their voting rights, their human rights disappear.
Taiwan used to be a colony of the Netherlands and it has also been occupied by Japan. During these periods Taiwan had no national sovereignty, and therefore no human rights to speak of. The Taiwanese have had their fill of not having national sovereignty and having their human rights infringed upon.
Because the national sovereignty of Taiwan is not yet formal, it does not have the recognition and respect of other countries. Abroad, Taiwanese people are often not respected.
Taiwanese fishing boat crews are sometimes detained when they come too close to Southeast Asian countries and are subjected to unfair punishment because the Taiwanese government does not have the power to come to their rescue. This shows once more that if the national sovereignty of a country is not recognized or respected, this can result in human rights violations.
Taiwan's sovereignty has not yet gained international recognition and respect. Our sovereignty -- including the rights to exist, independence, equality, jurisdiction over its own territory and self-defense -- is being threatened, and the human rights of Taiwan's citizens are suffering from the consequences.
China is using all means possible to strip Taiwan of what national sovereignty it now has and to achieve its goal of annexing Taiwan.
This would be an even greater disaster for the human rights of the Taiwanese. Hence, establishing Taiwan's independence and full sovereignty is extremely important for the protection of the human rights of the Taiwanese.
It would be an important step for the protection of human rights in Taiwan, and a great contribution to international human rights, if Taiwan could become a member of the UN and be established as a normal state.
Lee Sheng-hsiung is chairman of Amnesty International Taiwan.
Translated by Anna Stiggelbout
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