Taipei Times: How did you become involved in the human rights movement in Taiwan?
James Seymour: I came here to study in 1961, then I left and I actually did not come back until 1975. Then Amnesty International sent me as a delegate to appeal to the government to release political prisoners. This was at the time of Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) death. A hundred days after his death there would be a jiangxing [(減刑), commutation]. I was asked to ask the government to include the political prisoners in the commutation. And then a second time the same year, I was sent back by Amnesty International to attend the trial of Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏) and some other people. Actually I did not get into the trial so I decided I might as well do something with my time.
I went around and met the young tang wai [(
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TAIWAN FOUNDATION FOR DEMOCRACY
TT: Were you in Taiwan during the Mei-li Tau Incident?
Seymour: I was not here during the Mei-li Tau Incident. I was here in 1977. I came back after the incident and visited the relatives of [human-rights activists]. Then the government had enough of me, I was blacklisted after that.
TT: How do you think Taiwan has changed since then in terms of the human-rights movement?
Seymour: Well, of course it's very gratifying that Taiwan is now a place where human rights are respected. And those of us who were involved in human rights, our purpose was not to support this party or that party. But just to enable the people of Taiwan to make their own choices. Whatever they choose is not our business.
TT: So you are looking at it from a humanitarian perspective rather than a political perspective. The chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (
Seymour: Right. Yes, that's very important to me. Our purpose is not to support the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Our purpose is to support democracy in Taiwan. Democracy is in pretty good shape. We are very happy about that.
TT: You think so?
Seymour: Well, I know there are some problems. I've been focusing on China, so I am not up to speed about the situation in Taiwan. But my impression is that the judiciary still has some problems, the court system, some of these trials like Chang Chan-hong (張燦鍙). He returned from exile and became the mayor of Tainan. Of course [Taiwan has] always been a very corrupt place. The prosecutor decided to go for Chang. So far as I know they did not accuse him of any personal gain and I don't know if they have been able to prove that he did anything. But if he did anything it was more negligence than criminal intent. And the latest word is up to seven years' sentence.
So these young prosecutors are tai-li-hai [(太厲害), too smart] sometimes. And the judges are kind of weak. The judges should really make sure that justice is done. There are other cases too. So probably there are some reforms needed in the judiciary. But as far as free press is concerned, it's OK. There are no political prisoners, and people speak through free elections. So that's basically what we want.
TT: How do you think Taiwan compares with other countries in terms of the human-rights movement?
Seymour: Of course this is the world trend. I think the system here is in much better shape than the Russian system. Certainly it is pretty bad in Burma [Myanmar]. The situation here is much better than in Hong Kong, Vietnam. So Taiwan is really up there with the truly democratic countries.
SUICIDE MOTIVE PROBED: The 50-year-old woman had a boyfriend in Taiwan and police entering her apartment found no signs of forced entry, but they did find charcoal Taipei police yesterday found a Spanish woman dead in her COVID-19 quarantine accommodations, although the cause of death is yet to be determined. The 50-year-old entered Taiwan on Oct. 2 and was due to leave quarantine today, police said. After officials failed to contact her yesterday morning, officers were dispatched to the apartment on Chengdu Road in Wanhua District (萬華) at 4pm, they said. Officers wearing full protective gear entered the apartment, where they found charcoal, but no signs of forced entry, they added. Police said they were investigating a possible motive for suicide, as there was no note at the scene. The woman had
FEW REMAIN: Conservationists tried to stop the demolition, but to no avail, and the owner cannot be fined, as the structure was not listed as a historical building One of the few remaining Japanese colonial-era granaries in Taiwan was dismantled by its owner on Friday, prompting outrage from conservationists. The granary, which was at No. 16, Lane 11, Hangzhou S Rd Sec 1 in Taipei, belonged to Taiwan Takushoku Corp during the colonial era, conservationist Chang Wan-lin (張琬琳) said, adding that she and others had been collecting information to reapply to have the building protected as a historical structure. During the colonial era, the granary served the area from Monga (艋舺) to what is now Songshan District (松山) in the north, she said. “Back then the eastern part
TROUBLEMAKER: The missiles, capable of striking up to 2,000km away, would likely be used to deter other nations from coming to Taiwan’s aid, a legislator said The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reportedly deployed advanced hypersonic missiles along China’s southeast coast, which Taiwan’s missile defense system might have difficulty intercepting, an analyst said yesterday. Citing an unnamed military source, the South China Morning Post said that the missile bases on the coasts of China’s Fujian and Zhejiang provinces have been upgraded and are stocked with DF-17 missiles, equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles. “The DF-17 hypersonic missile will gradually replace the old DF-11s and DF-15s that were deployed in the southeast region for decades,” said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “The
SEEING THE POSITIVE: A majority of respondents in Taiwan said that they favored Trump because they think Taiwan-US ties would improve with him Among eight Asia-Pacific countries and regions, only Taiwan prefers US President Donald Trump over his challenger, former US vice president Joe Biden, in the upcoming US presidential election, a survey released on Thursday showed. According to the poll published by UK-based market research firm YouGov, 42 percent of Taiwanese favor Trump in the Nov. 3 election, while 30 percent back Biden and 28 percent have no opinion. In contrast, respondents in Malaysia favor Biden over Trump 62 percent to 9 percent, and in Singapore by 66 percent to 12 percent, the survey showed. Biden also led Trump in Australia (60 percent to 21