Sun, Jun 08, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Brown leads fight for Taiwan in US

Sherrod Brown, a Democratic member of the House, is the leading supporter in Congress of Taiwan's bid for observer status in the World Health Assembly. For several years he has introduced legislation pushing the White House to find a way to secure Taiwan's participation. This year, as in the past, such bills were approved by both the House and Senate. Brown, a 50-year-old sixth-term congressman, is also one of four co-founders of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, which was created in April last year to promote Taiwan's interests among US lawmakers. This week, Brown spoke in Washington with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Charles Snyder about the work of the caucus and the role of Taiwan issues in Congress

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US Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown, right, sits with Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng in this file photo.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF SHERROD BROWN

Taipei Times: The Congressional Taiwan Caucus is just over one year old. How do you assess the accomplishments of the caucus so far?

Sherrod Brown: The accomplishments are several. One is we have 118 members; that's more than one fourth of the House. It's bipartisan, about half and half. They have coalesced around the WHO [World Health Organization] bill, which we've passed without opposition. They have been active in speaking out on democracy issues and Taiwanese issues. And, the fact that there are four founders, two of each party, allows us to do a lot of things in a versatile way

TT: What would you say is the biggest success so far?

Brown: The biggest success is that this caucus has grown faster than any one I've known of on the hill. This was formed only a year ago and has that many members. A caucus like the India Caucus, which was fairly influential, took several years to get to that size. I think that's reason for optimism.

TT: Overall, as you look at Congress as a whole, how would you rate Congress' commitment to supporting Taiwan in its fight for greater recognition internationally and in the US?

Brown: I think that the Congress is supportive to a point. Few Republicans are willing to stand up to President [George W.] Bush, to push him harder on support of Taiwan. Too many members of Congress are cowed by the Chinese government and the Chinese presence. You know, it's a country of a billion plus people, for sure. But it's also a nation that can't hold a candle to the democracy of Taiwan. I'm disappointed that more members of Congress don't stand up to China on human rights. But I also think a lot of members of Congress celebrate the miracle of Taiwan, the democracy of Taiwan and the growing prosperity in Taiwan.

TT: Do you think the caucus stands a chance of turning some of these congressmen around?

Brown: The caucus does matter. In particular, the four founders are the most active. There are other active members, too. But the four of us are speaking for Taiwan and calling on each other when we need assistance on something, and I think the caucus does, over time, really begin to move people into more support for Taiwan. There are more "dear colleague letters" going out, there's more information out there, there's more recognition of Taiwan, there's more attention paid to Taiwan.

TT: You've been the leading congressmen in support of Taiwan's observer status in the World Health Assembly, but you've also been critical of the administration's efforts in the past to push that. How do you think the administration did this year?

Brown: I think the administration did better this year. Every year, through [former president Bill] Clinton and Bush, we've seen a baby step, and this year is no exception. I was hoping, because of SARS, that we would see something more than that. And while I was pleased with what [Health and Human Services] Secretary [Tommy] Thompson did, and I don't want to understate that, I would hope in the future we could see a few giant steps and not just baby steps in terms of assisting Taiwan.

TT: In a statement signing the bill this year, the president seemed annoyed at Congress' demand for a report on the administration's actions, saying he would not disclose certain information. How do you assess that?

Brown: This is an administration that trades in secrecy. It rarely tells the American people or Congress [what] it doesn't want to tell us, what happened Sept. 11; it doesn't much want to tell us what happens in its trade negotiations, and it doesn't really want to report to Congress the moves toward democracy in China, if there are any, and especially doesn't want to share with us its efforts or what it's doing on Taiwan. I don't think it's doing enough. While I applaud Secretary Thompson's efforts, I think the Bush administration itself, the White House itself, is dragging its feet.

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