As accolades and tributes poured in for late representative Tom Lantos' role in championing human rights throughout the world, including the rights of the people of Taiwan to self-determination, attention in Washington began to focus on Lantos' successor as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, fellow Californian Howard Berman, another leading supporter of Taiwan in Congress.
With the death of Lantos, 80, of esophageal cancer on Monday, Congress lost one of its greatest champions of Taiwan, but Washington observers said that Berman would fit the role well.
While the appointment will be up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership, Berman is the next in line under the House leadership rules and was immediately named as acting committee chairman.
Like Lantos, Berman has long been a supporter of Taiwanese autonomy and of causes espoused by Taipei, including participation in international organizations such as the UN and the WHO.
Lantos, who lost most of his family in the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people and escaped from two labor camps in his youth, became a US citizen and the first Holocaust-survivor congressman. His life was marked by his fight for human rights, including those of the Taiwanese.
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a pro-Taiwan independence lobbying organization, said Lantos' "strong support for human rights and democracy around the world led him to work in support of Taiwan's fight for human rights, democracy and international acceptance."
Recalling his legislative activities in support of Taiwan, the FAPA statement said that he had initiated resolutions in support of Taiwan's membership of the UN and the WHO, and had spoken out against Europe's plan to lift its arms embargo with China.
It also cited his sponsorship last summer of a resolution -- unanimously approved in the House -- to lift curbs on US visits by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and other top Taiwan officials, as well as his recent sponsorship of a resolution supporting Taiwan's democracy.
"The Taiwanese-American community and the people of Taiwan will dearly miss him," FAPA said.
US President George W. Bush issued a statement praising Lantos as "a man of character and a champion of human rights" who "was a living reminder that we must never turn a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent at the hands of evil men."
Pelosi, a long compatriot of Lantos in their struggle for human rights and in condemnation of China's contempt for human rights, praised Lantos as a man who used his committee chairmanship to "empower the powerless and give voice to the voiceless throughout the world."
Berman said Lantos, as a Holocaust survivor, "brought a unique moral perspective to his work," and was a "true giant in advancing the cause of human rights around the world."
Berman himself has been one of the House of Representative's greatest champions of Taiwan for the past decade or more. From the late 1990s, when Taiwan was coming under increased attention in Washington as the Taiwanese were making their cause felt, culminating in Chen's 2000 presidential victory, Berman was a leading voice in support of Taiwanese aspirations.
He regularly introduced or sponsored legislation supporting Taiwan's participation in the WHO and bid to join the UN and was a supporter of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, a bill introduced by then Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms to expand US-Taiwan military relationships and communications.