Taiwan must tackle China human rights deficit: Wang Dan

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Oct 03, 2012 - Page 1

Taiwan should pay more attention to human rights developments in China because it serves Taiwan’s interests and it is an issue that crosses party lines, Chinese dissident Wang Dan (王丹) told a forum in Taipei yesterday.

Wang, one of the best-known student leaders of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 and who is now a visiting professor at National Tsing Hua University, said he has high hopes for Taiwan’s role in China’s struggle for democratization at a forum yesterday organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The dissident was among four panelists who examined the human rights situation in China at a symposium — the last of four sessions on Chinese affairs organized at the DPP’s Open Studio forum — hosted by DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).

Because of its geographical proximity to and its historical, cultural and political connections with China, Taiwan should play a more active role in promoting human rights there, Wang said.

Wang said he hoped the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy — initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — would increase its monitoring of China’s human rights developments, which he said has been lacking in recent years. He also questioned why Chinese rights activists had never been awarded the foundation’s Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award.

The fight for democracy and human rights by Chinese people should be an issue that transcends Taiwanese domestic political competition, Wang said, adding that he hoped the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would join the DPP in standing up for people in China if major incidents occurred there in the future.

Taiwan should pass on its rich experience about how to organize protests and social movements to Chinese activists, he said.

Chinese students currently studying in Taiwan are “valuable” because they are set to become China’s next generation of leaders, and if Taiwan could influence them positively by promoting dialogue and the exchange of opinions, then it would benefit Taiwan in the long run, Wang said.

However, Wang was among panelists who argued that human rights in China have been moving backwards because of Beijing’s lack of willingness to deal seriously with them. In particular, bilateral dialogues and the UN-backed human rights mechanisms have not been effective at all over the past decade, Wang said.

In the past, human rights in Taiwan and China were viewed as separate issues, but they have begun to intertwine as cross-strait engagement has increased, said Liao Fu-te (廖福特), associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Law. Taiwan should make clear to Beijing that human rights are the foundation for peace and that this is more important than economic and trade exchanges, Liao said.

Chen Chih-chieh (陳至潔), an assistant professor at National Chengchi University, said the influence of Western countries on China’s approach to human rights appeared to be diminishing as Beijing’s power grows.

China has needed assistance from the West in several areas in the past, so it had to improve its human rights practices to achieve those goals, he said, adding: “Now it seems to be the opposite. As Beijing’s power grows, it could not care less about the human rights dialogue.”