Tue, Dec 09, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Reporter's absence from conference queried

BY Stephaine Wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The absence of American reporter Tina Chou (周清月) from the conference held by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy has triggered speculation that she cancelled her trip because of pressure from the People First Party (PFP).

Chou was an Associated Press reporter when democracy activist Chen Wen-chen (陳文成), an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was found dead in July 1981.

Chen's body was found on the lawn of the Graduate School of Taiwan University after he had been picked up by the Taiwan Garrison Command.

The police claimed that Chen had committed suicide, but Chou's reporting placed the police under suspicion when it noted that an autopsy performed by American forensic experts suggested his death was not suicide.

Chou's press credentials were cancelled and she was prevented from working as a journalist in Taiwan by the Government Information Office (GIO).

The head of the GIO at the time of Chen's death was James Soong (宋楚瑜), now PFP chairman.

However, the foundation would not confirm whether the Chou's decision not to attend was because of objections by the PFP members on its board.

When asked about Chou's absence, PFP Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) replied: "The foundation would not have been established without my assistance. Yet I had not been informed about this conference or the guest list until a week ago. I question why the conference was not held in previous years but instead now, during a sensitive period in the presidential election campaign."

Robert Lihtorng Chen (陳荔彤), a spokesman for the foundation and a board member of the Administrative Tribunal to several governmental departments, said the conference was being held to mark International Human Rights Day, which is tomorrow.

"It could not have been held in previous years because the foundation was only established this year," Chen said, adding that the organization had been an idea of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

"It could not have been established before the DPP took over the government," Chen said.

Talking about the significance of the conference, Richard Kagan, who once worked as courier for the "radical political activists" when he visited Taiwan in the 1970s, said that "this conference is about the openness of freedom of speech and freedom of documents."

He urged the people to call upon the government to make records available for them to find out the truth about what had happened.

While most of the victims of political persecution could be categorized as pioneers of the DPP, notably senior advisor to the president Peng Ming-min (彭明敏), Sun said that "the foreign guests are also friends of the KMT-PFP alliance and I welcome them on behalf of the KMT."

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