For Vice President Annette Lu (
As the early contest for the 2008 presidential election heats up, Lu is the only contender to persistently take a solid stance in pursuing her agenda.
Last year, Lu demonstrated particular devotion to pursuing her ideals. To solidify the nation's diplomatic ties, she conducted two overseas trips -- to Central America in March and Palau in June. In August, Lu formally established the Democratic Pacific Union (DPU), composed of 28 member states, and became its first director-general. Under her guidance, several academic exchanges have been conducted and the DPU's Pacific Center for Disaster Reduction was established last month.
"United Nations [membership] is now not our only goal. We have new channels, including the DPU, to publicize Taiwan's valuable experience in promoting universal values, including democracy and human rights," Lu told the Taipei Times during an exclusive interview.
For decades, Taiwan's leading female political figure has seized any opportunity to campaign for the nation's return to the UN.
However, based on past experience, she knows clearly that China's barriers are not easy to remove.
"Taiwan is now using the `soft power' of its existing advantages in various fields to strengthen relations not only with friendly countries but also other influential countries with which it has no diplomatic ties. It's more practical for Taiwan to explore international space in this way," Lu said.
Lu knows from personal experience the importance of human rights. She spent 64 months behind bars after making a 20-minute speech that criticized the government at a peaceful rally commemorating International Human Rights Day in Kaohsiung in 1979. But Lu has transformed the humiliation of that episode into a driving force in her fight for social justice.
* Date of birth: June 7, 1944
* Place of birth: Taoyuan
* Education: National Taiwan University, bachelors degree in law (1967); University of Illinois, master of comparative law (1971); Harvard Law School, master of law (1978).
* Political career: Sentenced to 12 years in prison due to her involvement in the Kaohsiung Incident (1979), released for medical treatment to cure her thyroid cancer (1985), helped launch global campaign for Taiwan to enter the UN (1991), legislator (1993-1996), National Policy Advisor to President Lee Teng-hui (1996), Taoyuan County Commissioner (1997), Taoyuan County Commissioner, Vice President (2000-present).
Since May 2000, when she became Taiwan's first female vice president, Lu has used her political influence to promote the value of human rights.
The Human Rights Advisory Committee, convened by Lu, has been the most active of the committees and taskforces under the Presidential Office. Over the past five years, the committee has reviewed controversies surrounding the government's plans to build a fingerprint database of every person in Taiwan, the lack of laws regulating firms that threaten debtors with violence and problems involving Chinese smugglers.
In addition, as a legal specialist, Lu has called for revolutionary reforms in the training of law enforcement officials.
"We need judges that have abundant social experience. Currently, some diligent law students can easily pass examinations and become judges without experiencing real life. The situation might not be positive for the public," Lu said.
Lu said that through amendments, new regulations that ensure the quality of the nation's legal officials might be available by 2010.
Lu's loyalty to her high social justice ideals makes her different from other key figures inside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Late last year, when the party was under the shadow of a scandal involving the construction of the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, Lu decided to help establish a citizen's alliance to oversee construction. While some party members criticized her for highlighting the party's shortcomings, Lu insisted that the monitoring mechanism would guard the human rights of Kaohsiung's residents.