Mon, Mar 31, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Newsmaker: US protester has long tradition of fighting for rights

VETERAN CAMPAIGNER American Lynn Miles, who burned his passport to protest against the war in Iraq, has been a part of the human-rights movement in Taiwan since the 1970s

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

US national Lynn Miles' move to burn his passport on March 21 in front of the de facto US embassy drew limited media attention compared with other anti-war protests in Taipei since mid-February.

Unlike many peace activists, the man with white whiskers and an austere outfit carried no anti-war banners nor did he shout pro-peace slogans when he appeared on Hsinyi Road for his solemn act, accompanied by less-than-a-dozen friends.

Miles' one-man protest included soft drum beating, meditation, a slow verbal delivery of his anti-war stance and the burning of his wrinkled passport on the ground amid scattered petals of rhododendrons.

Even when his friend Reuben BenYuhmin joined him to recite an anti-war poem as Miles burnt his passport, BenYuhmin's performance was neither showy nor pompous, echoing Miles' seemingly moderate appeal.

It was not until his old friends highlighted Miles' links to Taiwan's democracy movement decades ago that his longstanding commitment to human rights was revealed.

"Miles was involved in pushing for human rights in Taiwan earlier than me by engaging in rescuing political prisoners," said Linda Gail Arrigo at the small anti-war demonstration.

"I've known him for 26 years. He devoted himself to safeguarding Taiwan's human rights nearly 30 years ago when he was in Osaka, Japan," Arrigo, a woman of US origin who formed strong ties with Taiwan and its democracy movement, said in Mandarin.

"He cares about not only human rights in Taiwan, but elsewhere," Arrigo said.

Cofounder of the International Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Taiwan, Miles was also a member of the Japan section of Amnesty International in the 1970s.

Miles worked closely with Osaka City University professor Kawakubo Kimio and his associates to ensure that Taiwan would remain on the Amnesty agenda, while putting materials on Taiwanese political prisoners into the hands of politicians, journalists, church leaders and concerned individuals in Japan.

With help from Miles, Arrigo secretly collected evidence of human-rights abuses in Taiwan and passed it on to countries such as Japan and the US in an attempt to put international pressure on the then authoritarian KMT regime.

"Due to Amnesty International's efforts, backed by its ability to tap into an ever-expanding roster of information sources, many prisoners in Taiwan had their sentences reduced or their conditions otherwise ameliorated," Miles said in an article written in 2000.

Miles was blacklisted from 1971 to 1996 by the KMT government for his close ties with Taiwan's opposition movement.

Even his old friend Chen Wan-chen (陳婉真), who declined Miles' invitation to join him to take part in the anti-war protest, recognized Miles' efforts decades ago to improve Taiwan's shoddy human-rights records.

"When Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) secretly fled Taiwan and was in exile overseas, Miles helped Peng and his like," Chen wrote in a fax sent to news agencies on the day Miles staged his anti-war protest.

Peng, now national policy adviser to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), fled the country after his pro-independence stance was considered in violation of the law by the KMT government.

Chen, in her note, recognized Miles' courage to burn his US passport, while wishing him success in promoting his anti-war agenda.

Like Chen, many of Miles' "friends" from the DPP government, to whom he lent a hand when they were imprisoned or blacklisted for their challenges to the authoritarian KMT regime, didn't show up to back up his anti-war gesture.

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