Human rights groups yesterday protested in front of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) headquarters in Taipei, urging officials to include personal safety on the agenda of the next round of talks with China that begin tomorrow and calling for the immediate release of Bruce Chung (鍾鼎邦), a Taiwanese businessman and Falun Gong practitioner who has been detained in China for more than 50 days.
The eighth meeting between the foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits is to be held in Taipei from today until Friday. An investment protection agreement and a customs cooperation agreement are expected to be signed during the meeting.
Two days before the meeting, members of the Cross-Strait Agreement Watch Association (CSAWA), Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Taiwan Labor Front (TLF) and Taiwan Democracy Watch (TWDEM) delivered a checklist to the foundation of human rights issues concerning cross-strait relations that they say are key for the protection of personal freedom and safety. It was the second such list the organizations have submitted to the SEF since last year.
The advocates said that if most of the human rights requirements are not met during the meeting, the SEF should not sign the agreements, but continue negotiations until an acceptable result is achieved.
One of the requirements is to include personal security in cross-strait negotiations on the investment protection agreement, TWDEM director Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) said.
“Personal safety and freedom should not be limited to Taiwanese businesspeople, but all citizens traveling across the Strait,” Hsu said. “Failing to incorporate human right issues into the negotiations shows the government has little concern for its citizens.”
“The upcoming negotiations are once again a test of the Taiwanese government’s commitment to human rights protection,” Hsu said.
Meanwhile, TLF secretary--general Son Yu-lian (孫友聯) said that Taiwan’s investment protection agreement with China should follow the rules set in a similar agreement with Japan, which prohibits lowering environmental and labor standards to attract investors.
CSAWA convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said prisoners’ rights should also be included in the cross-strait talks, which should include a stipulation that alerts Taipei within 24 hours of a Taiwanese being arrested or detained and secures visiting rights for family members, government officials and attorneys.
In addition, detainees should have attorneys present during trials to protect them from torture or being coerced into pleading guilty.
“Under China’s criminal law, if detainees are accused of s-abotaging national and public security, the government is not obligated to inform family members,” Lai said. “To us, this is unacceptable.”
Lai also said that in China, police and customs officers can detain suspects for up to 37 days without trial.
“It’s a serious violation of human rights,” he said. “Our officials should demand such practices be abolished in the agreement.”
The recent arrest of Chung by the Chinese government without explanation is a deafening warning on how Beijing would protect Taiwanese in China, the advocates said.
After a trip to his father’s hometown in Yongkang City, Jiangxi Province, Chung was arrested on June 18 “for hijacking the signal of a Chinese TV station in 2003 from Taiwan with the help of Chinese nationals,” according to Xinhua news agency.