Calling President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) a human rights violator who had no right to talk about human rights, dozens of former political prisoners yesterday protested as the president delivered a speech at the Jingmei Human Rights Cultural Park as part of events to mark International Human Rights Day.
“You’re a transgressor!” “Ma Ying-jeou, step down!” “You don’t deserve to stand there and talk!” “We don’t want to listen to your lies!” the protesters shouted.
One after another the former political prisoners, their families and friends stood up from the audience and shouted as Ma took the podium at the inauguration of an exhibition on the White Terror at the former detention center in Sindian City (新店), Taipei County.
The White Terror refers to the period from 1949 to 1987 when martial law was in effect, during which tens of thousands of political dissidents and others were arrested, jailed, disappeared, executed or murdered with or without trial.
Ma continued his speech even as many of the protesters staged a walkout, leaving about one-third of the seats empty.
“I can understand why some of our friends have different voices. I appreciate that they are willing to come and I’m willing to listen to what they have to say,” Ma said.
Speaking to media outside the venue, Huang Shu-chun (黃淑純) said she could not bear to listen to the president talk as if human rights abuses were a thing of the past.
“Human rights violations are happening today and even if Ma talks about human rights, it’s gotten worse since he came into office,” Huang said. “Take freedom of the press for example. As reporters, don’t you feel there are more restrictions and government interference now?”
Lin Shu-chih (林樹枝), a former prisoner of conscience, said someone who had “no idea” about human rights and was one of the perpetrators of human rights abuses during the White Terror did not deserve to talk about human rights on Human Rights Day.
Ma, who studied in the US in the 1970s on grants from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), is alleged by many Taiwanese who were in the US at the same time to have been a “professional student” who spied on anti-government activities by other students.
Ma has repeatedly denied the allegation over the years.
The White Terror exhibition features books, sketches, pictures and personal items from political prisoners who were held at the Jingmei Military Detention Center. The exhibition will run until Dec. 10, 2012.