Thu, Dec 25, 2008 - Page 1 News List

US lawmakers urge Bush not to forget Taiwan

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER , WASHINGTON

Fourteen members of the US Congress have written to US President George W. Bush urging him not to forget Taiwan during his final days in office.

They want Bush to warn President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) that he must respect Taiwan’s basic freedoms and civil rights as he tries to improve relations with China.

“We want to express our concern about recent developments in Taiwan,” the letter written by Republican Representative Scott Garrett said. “The latest events appear to signal a disturbing erosion of civil liberties and human rights in Taiwan.”

The letter charges that during Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit last month, police seized Republic of China flags from anyone waving them along routes traveled by Chen; people were forbidden to display Tibetan flags; a shop was closed because it played Taiwanese folk music and police mistreated those who opposed the visit.

The letter says that several Democratic Progressive Party members had been interrogated, arrested and detained by police for politically motivated reasons.

“With this in mind, we hope that you will keep a close eye on these developments and urge the Ma Yin-jeou [sic] government to respect the basic freedoms and civil rights that Taiwan’s people have fought so diligently to achieve,” the letter said.

The letter was also signed by Republicans John Culberson, Dana Rohrabacher, Thaddeus McCotter, Kenny Marchant, Trent Franks, John Duncan, Michele Bachmann, Sue Myriuck, John Sullivan and Peter Roskam, and Democrats Robert Andrews, Dennis Moore and Rush Holt.

It is unlikely at this late stage of his administration that Bush will take any direct action. However, the letter will certainly be noted by president-elect Barack Obama’s administration and those officials he is appointing to foreign policy positions concerned with Taiwan.

There is concern that the Obama administration will be so anxious to promote good relations with China that it might overlook civil and human rights violations in Taiwan.

“Letters of this kind are very important because they act as a reminder that it is wrong to sacrifice civil rights for political policies — the end does not justify the means,” an Amnesty International official said.

Bob Yang (楊英育), president of the US-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs, said: “Sending this letter demonstrates the US Congress’ serious commitment to Taiwan’s democracy and freedom. We urge the Ma administration to heed international concern and to pledge to uphold the highest standard of universal human rights and civil liberty in Taiwan.”

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