President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged to continue to pay close attention to human rights issues in China and to protect human rights in Taiwan, stressing the government’s efforts to promote reconciliation with victims of past political oppression.
Speaking at the launch of the English version of the government’s first national human rights report, Ma said his administration had frequently voiced its concern about human rights developments in China — including its annual remarks on the Tiananmen Square Massacre and calls for the release of Chinese dissidents such as artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) and Nobel Peace laureate and writer Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波).
“We care very much about mainland China’s human rights record, and it’s not just something we learned from Western countries or because we’re following any trends,” Ma said at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“In Taiwan, we’ve adopted various measures to compensate families of the victims of the 228 Incident and the White Terror period. It is important to recognize past mistakes and bring about reconciliation in society,” he said.
The report was compiled by the Presidential Office’s human rights advisory panel in April. It details the nation’s progress in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that Ma signed in 2009, and showcases the government’s efforts in protecting human rights in different areas, including gender equality, individual freedoms, social welfare and the judicial system.
The Ma administration will invite nine international academics to review the report in February, including the president’s mentor, New York University law professor and human rights advocate Jerome Cohen.
Cohen visited imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Monday. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), who accompanied Cohen on the visit, said the professor was planning to establish a committee to conduct a full review of Chen’s case and decide whether to make an appeal for Chen’s rights when he visits Taiwan in February to review the human rights report.
When asked whether Cohen’s concerns about Chen’s condition in prison would affect the report’s review, the president said Cohen and other academics would focus on the content of the human rights report.
“The international review will focus on the content of the report, and we do not know whether they will express other concerns. The Republic of China government will definitely respect their opinions,” he said.
As to condemnation from the EU and several human rights groups about Taiwan’s continued implementation of the death penalty, Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) said the government would reduce the number of death sentences, with an aim to eliminate capital punishment in the future. However, for the time being, the ministry should respect the rule of law and enforce the death penalty.
The report also addressed the issue of media monopolies, a subject that has drawn wide concern since Want Want China Broadband’s (旺中寬頻) bid to acquire the 11 cable TV services owned by China Network Service.
Ma said maintaining a free and open media environment remained the government’s policy.
Issues related to media mergers will be handled by the National Communications Commission and the Fair Trade Commission, and the government will not interfere with their authority, he said.