Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Leading the way on human rights

By Yang Sen-hong 楊憲宏

When examining the topic of personal freedoms in China and how it affects relations between Taiwan and China, the evolution of Taiwan in the 1980s and two famous historical stories — which remind us how things can change when human rights are given the highest place in our hearts — must be discussed first.

China has become a strong economic entity by following in the footsteps of Taiwan and manufacturing what Taiwan used to produce.

However, in terms of religious freedoms and human rights, it is still way behind.

Many people talked about the “Taiwan Experience” as a good example for developing countries to follow.

This should not be limited to the economy, but also the political and judicial systems. Taiwan is a free country now, but this was achieved thanks to the people who fought tirelessly for their freedom in the 1980s.

Taiwan used to be like China. For about 40 years, Taiwan was ruled under Martial Law that was eventually lifted in 1987.

There were persecutions long before the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, such as the persecutions of political dissidents during the White Terror era.

Less publicized was the labeling of certain branches of Daoism as cults and the imprisonment of religious worshipers.

Except for harvesting organs for transplants, this form of persecution is basically the same as how Falun Gong practitioners are treated in China today.

As a results of the efforts of many freedom fighters, the government could no longer stop the tide of democratization. Martial law was ended and Taiwanese are now able to enjoy both political and religious freedom.

The story of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi showed the same change.

She was detained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from July 20, 1989 until her release on Nov. 13, 2010, becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners.

During this time, she was prevented from meeting her supporters and international visitors, but was occasionally allowed visits from foreign diplomats, as well as from her personal physician.

The media were also prevented from visiting Aung San Suu Kyi.

On several occasions during her house arrest, she had periods of poor health and was hospitalized.

The Burmese government kept Aung San Suu Kyi imprisoned because it viewed her as someone “likely to undermine the community peace and stability” of the country.

More than 2,000 political prisoners were detained in Myanmar while Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest. They were also accused of “desiring to cause subversion.”

With the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, the government tied itself up — the country had nowhere to go globally.

After her release, the state certainly set itself free in every angle in the world and it has since been experiencing a miraculous change.

The key accusatory words used by authoritarian rulers in Taiwan and Myanmar were: “inciting,” “sabotage and conspiring to violently overthrow the state,” “undermining community peace and stability,” and “desiring to cause subversion.”

These days, such descriptions appear frequently in political sentences in China.

In the past decade, many Taiwanese have visited China and witnessed how it suppresses free speech.

However, most Taiwanese businesspeople in China have said very little on the issue.

Only when they return to Taiwan can they complain to their friends of the nightmare reminiscent of their experiences during the Martial Law era in Taiwan.

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