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Sun, Feb 03, 2002 - Page 2 News List

NGO celebrates World Freedom Day

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The World League for Freedom and Democracy's (WLFD) Taiwan chapter met for its 46th annual convention and celebrated the 48th World Freedom Day yesterday with participants urging China and North Korea to improve their human rights records.

"The Republic of China is now a well-respected country in the global community for its respect for human rights. On the contrary, communist China is severely criticized worldwide for its oppression of human rights," said Yao Eng-chi (饒穎奇), convention chairman as well as former deputy speaker of the legislature.

Kwon Jung-dal, president of the Korea Freedom League, cited Amnesty International's annual report as saying that North Korea's human rights situation is "one of the worst in the world."

"The government of North Korea must take this issue seriously and respond to the demands of the international community for openness and improvement," Kwon said.

Kwon also reviewed the history of World Freedom Day.

He said some 14,000 Chinese soldiers who were sent by China to fight in the Korean War defected to Taiwan on Jan. 23, 1954. They referred to Taiwan as "free China," and this is why Jan. 23 was named World Freedom Day, Kwon said.

"World Freedom Day was founded to remember and celebrate noble crusaders for world freedom, and to promote respect for the political and human rights of all peoples around the globe," Kwon said.

General Guillermo A. Pecache, president of the Philippine Council for World Freedom, stressed the importance of consolidating economic fundamentals as a key means to ensure the protection of human rights.

"What is clear is that unless we consolidate freedom and democracy by working on the economic foundations, the resulting anarchy would make human rights meaningless," said Pecache, who is also president of the Manila-based Asian Institute of Strategic Studies.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), in his written congratulatory message to the meeting, lauded the WLFD's Taiwan chapter for its "longtime dedication to the cause of freedom and democracy," and its "contributions to promoting mutually beneficial exchanges among non-governmental organizations (NGOs)."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) praised the WLFD's Taiwan branch for its work in expanding Taiwan's external ties through parliamentary and NGO channels.

The WLFD, a descendent of the Asian-Pacific Anti-Communist League established in 1954, has enjoyed longstanding government funding from Taiwan since its inception.

The WLFD, composed of 139 national chapters and affiliated international organizations, is the only NGO strongly associated with Taiwan that is accredited with the UN.

However, until last September, the WLFD was wracked by internal bickering, with two factions claiming to be the rightful leaders of the organization. The two factions were led by Yao and Clement Chang (張建邦), a longtime KMT functionary and founder of Tamkang University.

The stuggle was resolved after Chien, then the deputy secretary-general to President Chen, worked to mediate between the two factions. Chang agreed to lead the WLFD until the end of this year and then to allow Yao, through related legal procedures, to vie for the WLFD leadership, sources said.

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