Sat, Sep 14, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Democracy advocates gather in Taipei

By Davina Tham  /  Staff reporter

Hong Kong singer and democracy advocate Denise Ho, right, is joined by independent Legislator Freddy Lim, center, and Human Rights Foundation president and Oslo Freedom Forum founder Thor Halvorssen as she points to a member of the audience at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

Democracy advocates, among them Hong Kong singer-activist Denise Ho (何韻詩) and exiled Chinese dissident Yang Jianli (楊建利), yesterday attended the Oslo Freedom Forum in Taipei to encourage more people to support movements against authoritarian regimes.

Several speakers made references to the protests in Hong Kong, which have grown from a movement against a proposed extradition bill into calls for wider democratic reforms.

Taking the stage to cheers and applause, Ho said Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) caused the protests by misjudging the political situation.

“By hiding behind the police force, refusing to resolve these political issues with political solutions, [Lam] has pushed our city into becoming a total police state,” Ho said.

She also dismissed Lam’s formal withdrawal of the extradition bill on Wednesday last week as “too little, too late,” saying that the protesters would continue to push for their demands.

Ho was later joined on stage by independent Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐), who thanked Hong Kong’s protesters for standing firm against China.

“Seeing our friends in Hong Kong continuing to have courage under such difficult circumstances, constantly moving forward and constantly renewing their protest actions, as people living in Taiwan, what right do we have to let go of everything that we have?” he asked.

Fears about Chinese capital coming in via Hong Kong had led to some discussion that Taiwan should protect itself from covert foreign interference by recognizing investments from Hong Kong as coming from an “ordinary city in China,” Lim said.

However, as doing so would effectively be “giving up” on Hong Kong, Taiwanese should stand with the territory and participate in a Sept. 29 march outside the Legislative Yuan organized by civic organizations, Lim said.

The forum struck an upbeat and hopeful note, despite its focus on authoritarian regimes.

Asked whether Hong Kong would see violent suppression akin to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, Yang said that the possibility could not be ruled out, but added that violence remains a “very small” part of the protests.

Yang also said that he was “amazed” that Hong Kong’s protesters had kept up their momentum while avoiding any splintering, which most protest movements suffer.

Earlier in the day, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator You Mei-nu (尤美女), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) and Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan chief coordinator Jennifer Lu (呂欣潔) took to the stage to speak about Taiwan’s path to marriage equality.

Hsu said Taiwan’s legalization of same-sex marriage in May was “further proof that Taiwan’s soft power could lead Asia toward more progressive values.”

Lu said that Taiwan experienced all three possible routes to marriage equality — a constitutional interpretation, a referendum and legislation — in just three years.

This was a “severe challenge, but “marriage equality is the starting line, not the finishing line,” Lu said, adding that LGBT people in Taiwan continue to face discrimination.

Hsu said that despite the legal victory, equality was not yet assured on issues such as transnational marriage, adoption and surrogacy.

Other speakers related their struggles in Myanmar, North Korea, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela.

Taiwan remains the only Asian nation to have hosted the forum, which is organized by the US-based Human Rights Foundation.

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