Fri, Sep 23, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chen goes to Washington, sort of; receives an award

TRANSIT STOP The president received a human rights award presented by members of the US Congress, as some US officials called for him to come to DC in person


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) came to Washington for the first time since his days as Taipei Mayor -- albeit electronically -- amid calls by more than a dozen Congress members that he be allowed in the US capital in person in the not-too-distant future.

His appearance, in a basement recording studio in a House of Representatives office building on Capitol Hill, was in a teleconference that connected Washington with his hotel in Miami, during which he received the 2005 annual human-rights award from the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. The award was given for his efforts to promote human rights and political freedom in Taiwan and throughout Asia.

The award was originally intended to be delivered in Miami, where Chen is transiting en route to Latin America, but Hurricane Rita disrupted travel schedules and the need for members of Congress to be in Washington for legislative votes scotched that idea.

The chairman of the caucus, California Democrat Representative Tom Lantos, presented the award on behalf of the 250 caucus members in a unique ceremony in which Lantos spoke from the recording studio and Chen spoke from Miami via closed circuit television.

David Lee (李大維), Taiwan's top envoy to the US, later brought the human-rights award from Washington to Miami to present to Chen.

The press was barred from the ceremony, but a Lantos spokeswoman said that a tape of the proceedings would be made available to the media later.

It was not clear whether the public circulation of the tape would violate the State Department condition that Chen's transit through Miami be conducted on a "private and unofficial" basis and the implied condition that Chen make no public remarks.

The State Department has not contacted Lantos' office, his spokeswoman said.

Chen said the award "is in recognition of the collective efforts of the 23 million people of Taiwan, and they share the congressman's commitment and the commitment of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus to freedom, democracy and human rights," the spokeswoman said.

Chen also sent his greetings and that of his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), to Lantos and his wife, saying "that they look forward to seeing Congressman Lantos and his wife at some point in the future in Taiwan," the spokeswoman said.

In his remarks, Lantos said the award was presented "in recognition of your untiring efforts in the cause of social justice, your contributions to the strengthening of democracy in your country, and your commitment to the strengthening of Taiwan's humanitarian efforts around the globe."

He said that "Taiwan under your leadership has become a thriving, wealthy nation, and its people participate in an active and full-fledged democracy." In addition, "relations between the people of Taiwan and the United States have only grown stronger because of the emergence of economic prosperity and freedom in Taiwan."

Recalling Taiwan's long martial law period of the past, Lantos said, "Mr. President, you epitomize the long struggle for human rights and democracy in Taiwan."

The award reads: "The Congressional Human Rights Caucus presents the Human Rights Award to His Excellency Chen Shui-bian, President of the Republic of China on Taiwan, in recognition and appreciation of his outstanding dedication to internationally recognized human rights and the promotion of political freedom and human rights throughout the Asia-Pacific region."

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