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Tue, Nov 27, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Students in France planning to protest Chen visa decision

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

An association of Taiwanese students studying in France plans to protest the French government's decision to deny President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) a visa.

Chen sought to visit France earlier this month to receive the 2001 Prize for Freedom from Liberal International, a group of liberal parties from more than 60 countries. But France refused to approve the visa, fearing an angry response from China.

"France's refusal to grant Chen a visa is contrary not only to the freedom prize but also to the spirit of freedom, equality and fraternity praised by the Fifth Republic of France," Waiting Lee (李威霆), a member of the association, said yesterday.

In a draft letter, the students note that France -- despite pressure from China -- has on numerous occasions allowed visits by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader. There's little reason why the French government should refuse to give Chen a visa, the students said. "To support the Taiwanese who love freedom is a way to protest against China's dictatorship," the letter says.

Lee said the letter would be sent to the French government and the European Commission.

According to Hans van Baalen, vice president of Liberal International, all 15 members of the EU refused to grant Chen a visa to accept the award, despite lobbying efforts by the organization.

The EU has made an unofficial rule that Taiwan's top five political figures -- the president, vice president, premier and ministers of foreign affairs and defense -- cannot be issued visas, even for private travel.

Lee said some non-governmental organizations in France have voiced their support for the letter. The association is also working with its counterparts in North America and elsewhere to garner support.

On Nov. 14, first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) accepted the prize on behalf of Chen in Strasbourg, France, an honor the president said also recognizes the people of Taiwan for their remarkable democratic achievements.

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