Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan lauded as Asian beacon of democracy

MILESTONE On the first anniversary of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, foreign visitors praised the courage of those who have fought for the right to vote

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian, left, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, right, who is also chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen walk to the foundation's headquarters in Taipei yesterday to celebrate its first anniversary.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The influence of Taiwan, the first Chinese democracy, depends upon its status as a beacon of democracy in Asia, said Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, at the first anniversary of the establishment of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) yesterday.

"As a new democracy, Taiwan has a distinctive role to play. There is great interest in Asia, Latin America and other regions in Taiwan's success in making the transition from authoritarianism to a democracy that is vibrant and economically vigorous," Gershman said.

The Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy was created in 1983 with a mission to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through non-governmental efforts. It has been a major instrument in the establishment of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. Formed in June last year, the TFD is the first international foundation promoting democracy to be established in Asia.

The foundation's anniversary celebrations, along with the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the official opening of its headquarters, were attended by dignitaries including President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂). Gershman and Charles Zorgbibe, director of the Center for International Politics at the University of Paris, Sorbonne, delivered speeches to commemorate the anniversary.

Struggles to establish democracy in many countries and regions cannot be ignored, but the National Endowment for Democracy needs friends and allies to help nurture these democracies, Gershman said.

"We were therefore delighted when President Chen Shui-bian sent a message to the Second Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in November 2000, declaring Taiwan's intention to establish a democracy foundation," he said.

Gershman said the National Endowment for Democracy acknowledges the courage of those who have fought to achieve democracy in Taiwan, and the organization was honored when it presented its Democracy Service Medal to Taiwan's first lady, Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), in a ceremony in the US Congress during her visit to Washington in September 2002.

Chen Shui-bian said that the founding of the TFD and the inauguration of its headquarters were milestones in Taiwan's democratization. These milestones "beckon us to commemorate the valuable support and assistance from countries worldwide and peoples everywhere."

"It is our hope, as well as the TFD's most imperative mission, that the universal values Taiwan shares with the US, Japan and other international allies -- namely, freedom, democracy, human rights and peace -- will form the basis of a `value alliance,'" Chen Shui-bian said.

The president lauded the foundation's major accomplishments, including a training program for legislative assistance, research on referendum mechanisms and collaboration with other democracy foundations.

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