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Sun, Aug 19, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Liberal group asks EU to accept Chen

Hans van Baalen, vice president of Liberal International, a London-based global federation of liberal parties that granted President Chen Shui-bian the 2001 Prize for Freedom, revealed the latest developments with regard to the international body's attempt to find a country within in the EU where Chen would be able to receive the award in person. Van Baalen, talked to staff reporter Monique Chu on THursday about the prize after his meeting with Chen

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TT: Who are the European Parliament members that have tabled related questions to Patten?

Van Baalen: Graham Watson, a member of the European Parliament for the Liberals.

TT: Is Liberal International's main goal to find an EU country that will grant Chen a visa and to allow him to receive the award?

Van Baalen: We've decided to award the 2001 Prize for Freedom to President Chen. And we are supportive of finding a place inside the EU where Chen can be awarded the prize in person. I think your foreign ministry can help us toward that end. We will do what we can.

TT: What if at the end of the day none of the EU countries are willing to grant Chen a visa?

Van Baalen: We must look into that option if and when it occurs.

TT: During your recent meeting with China's official in charge of Taiwan affairs, Mingwei Zhou (周明偉), was this issue discussed?

Van Baalen: I told him that Liberal International decides to whom it will give the freedom prize. That's our business.

We saw Chen as a human-rights fighter, as a man of democracy, and we wanted to honor him for that. The Chinese did not comment on that because I stated indirectly that it's our business, not theirs.

And I did not discuss it further because it's not something between us and Beijing.

TT: In your view, how will the award, once formally given to Chen, show the world that here we have an elected president but whose physical movement has been hindered because of pressure from China?

Van Baalen: The fact is President Chen, like Vice President [Annette] Lu (呂秀蓮), were both in prison for their democratic convictions.

Today they are democratically elected president and vice president, and they are in prison again. They are now imprisoned in their own country. That's not acceptable.

When I spoke with the PRC as the vice president of Liberal International, I didn't speak about institutional matters concerning the political status of Taiwan -- I spoke about the human right to travel.

So I told them not to link the right to travel for President Chen and Vice President Lu to any institutional dealing.

It is a human right to travel. Therefore, President Chen should have the opportunity to receive in person the freedom prize of Liberal International.

Of course that will mark his achievement, and it will also mark the achievement of democracy on Taiwan soil.

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