In China, the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was a turning point, especially after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
China refused world recognition to the writer who had already served four years of an 11-year sentence for “inciting to overthrow the state.”
Taiwanese found it difficult to accept this ridiculous sentence. Most media in Taiwan urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to speak out in defense of Liu, and Ma did.
The legendary escape of dissident Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) from house arrest last year amazed Taiwanese.
Following repeated visits by concerned Chinese, Chen finally found a way to overcome the residential surveillance system and, through a dramatic process, gained an official passport from China and left for New York through formal channels, although not with the status of political refugee.
While Chen was imprisoned — on charges of disturbing road traffic and damaging public property — Taiwanese paid close attention to the blind, bare-footed lawyer from the Chinese countryside, who was helping rural women threatened by Beijing’s “one child policy.”
This year, the Taiwanese government said that dialogue between Taiwan and China should extend beyond economic and trade issues to encompass human rights, as well the rule of law.
“Taiwan’s ultimate goal is to maintain peace in East Asia and to allow people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to pursue the values of freedom and democracy,” Ma said on Jan. 23 at a ceremony in Taipei marking this year’s World Freedom Day.
Ma said that since he took office in 2008, dialogue between Taiwan and China has focused on trade and cultural issues, but he expressed hope that the issues of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law could be taken up in the near future.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) quickly made a statement to welcome the new approach in dealing with China.
However, the statement also challenged Ma.
“Please do not talk all the talk without action,” it said.
The DPP suggested proposing or amending laws to protect the human rights of political prisoners in China.
The legislature passed a motion, entitled “Caring for POC [prisoners of conscience] in China” on Dec. 11 last year, the day after last year’s World Human Rights Day.
The motion was passed without any objection in the Legislative Yuan.
It was proposed by opposition party lawmakers and the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, a non-governmental organization that promotes the protection of human rights in China and Taiwan. The motion was also supported by the majority ruling party.
The motion also has a long appendix of 4,033 names of political prisoners in China. That list is now an official parliamentary record of Taiwan.
In the future, Taipei must work toward helping Chinese political prisoners to show respect to the decision of the legislature.
The motion on Dec. 11, last year has blazed a trail in the history of the Taiwanese human rights movement.
”In view of the fact that human rights are not only universal values, but also the core value of the founding of our nation, which transcend national boundaries, gender, race, color, religious belief and organization, it is our country’s unshirkable responsibility to promote the development of democracy, freedom and the rule of law in China as well as to protect basic human rights of the people in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China,” it says.