Tue, Nov 10, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan receives slice of Berlin Wall

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, third right, General Director of the German Institute Birgitt Ory, second left, and other guests yesterday unveil a segment of the Berlin Wall in the garden of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. The segment was donated by the Oberhavel district in Germany.

PHOTO: CNA

A segment of the Berlin Wall was erected in the garden of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) in Taipei yesterday to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall, but the foundation declined to draw parallels with Taiwan.

During the unveiling ceremony, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who is also the foundation’s chairman, said that the fall of the wall ushered in the “third wave” of democratization.

Both the fall of the wall and Taiwan’s successful transition were proof of the universal aspiration of all humanity for democracy, freedom and human rights, he said.

Wang urged the public to refrain from linking the wall segment to unification with China.

“It’s too early to talk about unification,” he said. “Many people think that it may not happen during our lifetimes.”

The donation of the segment was not a sensitive issue, he said, and there had been no word about it from Beijing.

Wang said he hoped Taiwan’s democratization could influence other Asian nations, especially China, to become more democratic.

Wang said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had wanted to attend the unveiling, but had sent Presidential Office Secretary-General Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) as his representative.

Wang said the foundation had been informed in April that the government of Oberhavel District in Brandenburg State was willing to donate a segment of the wall as a token of hope for Taiwan’s work on human rights and a symbol of Taiwan’s quest for freedom and democracy. The message had been conveyed by the then-chairman of the Memorial Foundation of 228, Chen Chin-huang (陳錦煌), who is now chairman of the Hsin Kang Foundation, he said.

Representative to Germany Wei Wu-lien (魏武煉) accepted the gift on July 20 and arranged for its shipment, Wang said.

The German Institute in Taipei also provided assistance, including bringing German human rights activist Joern Mothes from the former East Germany to speak at yesterday’s ceremony, he said.

The 3.5m by 1.2m, 2.5-tonne segment has been placed temporarily in the TFD’s garden. Wang said the foundation would incorporate it into its new building as a public monument. He said for Taiwan, the wall segment was not only an artifact, but a symbol of the values of democracy, freedom and human rights that the public would cherish forever.

Wang said the “Berlin Wall” across the Taiwan Strait was torn down 22 years ago when the government allowed Taiwanese to visit their families in China. Since the government abolished the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款) in 1991, there has been no immediate threat of military conflict in the Strait, he said.

Wang said while the government “is doing what it is supposed to do to tear down the wall in the Taiwan Strait,” both sides need to work to prevent a military conflict and if a peace agreement could be signed, peace would be more sustainable.

“Everybody is watching how the leaders of both sides handle a peace accord,” he said.

In his keynote speech yesterday, Mothes said the Berlin Wall was a symbol of division, dictatorship and repression.

Mothes, born in 1962, a year after the wall was erected, said the wall divided Germany and his family.

“The question whether to stay in the GDR [German Democratic Republic] or to try to leave the country was a question people like my parents asked themselves almost every day,” he said.

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