Adults, not students, are at fault for a Nazi cosplay incident on Friday last week, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday, adding that it was the result of the nation’s “superficial” human rights education and failure to teach young people about state repression of rights in the past.
Tsai made the remarks at the 25th meeting of the Presidential Office’s Human Rights Advisory Committee yesterday afternoon, urging Taiwanese to make an effort to let the nation’s human rights freedoms set the bar for other nations.
Since the cosplay event, students and school authorities at Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School have received an outpouring of criticism, with the former accused of ignorance and the latter of negligence.
The event also drew ire from the representative offices of Israel and Germany. The school’s principal, Cheng Hsiao-ming (程曉銘), resigned on Sunday.
“Human rights are universal values, but they can only be realized when we constantly put them into practice at the local level,” Tsai said.
Speaking about the criticism of the students who dressed as Nazis at the school cosply event, Tsai said that it is adults who are to blame, not the students.
“This happened because our human rights education has only scratched the surface. We neglect incidents of discrimination and prejudice in our daily lives, and we have failed to teach our young people what they should learn from history and state repression of human rights,” Tsai said.
Self-reflection is required of everyone, Tsai said, adding that the event underscores the imperative need to reinforce human rights education and incorporate issues related to rights in different subjects.
The president said the day when one can call the education system a success is the day when the nation’s students understand the suffering others have endured, respect each other’s rights and stand up for justice.
To fulfill that goal, Tsai said she would invite the Executive Yuan and government agencies to deliver a report to the committee on the nation’s human rights education.
Taiwanese regarded democracy and freedom as the most valuable of human rights during the nation’s authoritarian period, Tsai said.
“Because of the sacrifices made by many of our democratic forebears, we are able to enjoy a mature democratic political system today and see our freedom of speech protected by the Constitution,” Tsai said.
However, there is no end to the pursuit of human rights, Tsai said.
“When it comes to human rights standards, we should always look upward to learn. As a matter of fact, there is still much room for us to make improvement,” she said.