Wed, Jun 01, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Ma’s rights promises do not reflect actuality

By Chen Mei-chin 陳美津

In a recent celebration in Greater Tainan to mark the third anniversary of his presidency, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) gave a speech in which he touted “human rights” as one of the three major achievements of his presidency. The other two were “sovereignty” and “environmental rights.” However, Ma’s rhetoric is clearly not backed by facts. Aside from signing two UN Human Rights Covenants into law, a token move, Ma’s presidency has no record of advancing human rights at home or abroad.

To the contrary, Ma’s presidency has been marred by incidents in which officials tried to restrict freedoms of expression and assembly. The incident where police beat up demonstrators and confiscated national flags and forcibly closed a record shop for playing Taiwanese folk music when Chinese official Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visited Taiwan in November 2008 is still vivid in people’s memories.

Recently, a visit by another Chinese official, Sichuan Province Governor Jiang Jufeng (蔣巨峰), caused an equally outrageous incident at the Grand Hotel. Members of the Taiwan Friends of Tibet group had planned a press conference in a room at the hotel at the same time as a symposium promoting investment opportunities and tourism in Sichuan was taking place.

However, the Tibetan support group was told at the last minute that their reservation had been canceled. Members of the group were roughed up and forcibly removed from the lobby by the hotel staff when they protested this unfair and unreasonable treatment.

From the high-handed manner of the hotel staff during this incident, one suspects that their actions were sanctioned by officials of the Ma administration. The Tibetan support group wanted to call a press conference to focus attention on the extremely dire circumstances facing the monks in Kirti Monastery on the Tibetan Plateau at an elevation of 3,200m in the northwestern part of Sichuan.

Jiang has been responsible for the arrest of more than 300 monks from Kirti Monastery and he has placed the monastery under siege.

These two incidents illustrate that the Ma administration, in its over-eagerness to protect the sensibilities of Chinese officials, is, in effect, practicing a form of self-censorship by restricting Taiwanese freedoms of expression and assembly.

In all his interviews with the foreign press, Ma has always touted democracy as Taiwan’s greatest achievement. Ma has claimed that his engagement policy with China would help China democratize. What better way to show these Chinese officials the strength of a vibrant democracy than by exposing them to peaceful demonstrations with protesters holding colorful placards, wearing headbands and shouting slogans?

Instead of advancing human rights, the Ma administration is increasingly aligning itself with China in suppressing human rights and press freedom. Another recent event is -Chunghwa Telecom’s refusal to renew New Tang Dynasty Television’s lease for broadcasts to China on the grounds that it “does not have sufficient bandwidth.” This is yet another example of a “subtle” attempt by the Ma administration to please authorities in Beijing because the station is supported by members of Falun Gong, which is banned in China.

China is afraid of democracy blossoming in its land. The word “jasmine” has become a taboo word in China; even jasmine flowers are banned in the marketplace because of their association with the “Jasmine Revolution” in the Middle East and north Africa. If Ma is serious about advancing human rights and democracy, both in Taiwan and in China, he should be a man of his word and stand up for the fundamental principles of human rights, instead of just paying lip service.

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