Taiwan should place more emphasis on China’s human rights abuses as cross-strait ties deepen, an informal group of prominent human rights lawyers said in Taipei yesterday on the eve of the 21st anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Massacre.
Taiwan should play a leading role in calling on China to respect the rule of law and basic human rights, the group said.
Speaking alongside the group in Taipei yesterday, Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Chairman Albert Ho (何俊仁) said: “We hope that Taiwan can care more about the legal system in China in support of basic human rights.”
Ho, who is a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and the chairman of China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, said more than 20 lawyers in China have had trouble renewing their licenses after defending high-profile human rights cases. Two of them allegedly face disbarment stemming from defending a Falun Gong practitioner.
Taiwanese lawyer Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正), who works with the Judicial Reform Foundation, said China’s human rights abuses and its outdated legal system could potentially affect Taiwan as relations between the two countries warm.
He said that if Taiwan’s government continues to sign cross-strait agreements with China, such as an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) it plans to ink later this month, “China’s legal system will affect us one day.”
“Our relationship with China has been focused disproportionately on the economy rather than human rights issues,” said Hsueh Chin-feng (薛欽峰), head of the Human Protection Committee at the Taipei Bar Association. “Taiwan should work to improve China’s law standards rather than the other way around.”
However, the group said that in a worrying trend, the attitude of Taiwan’s government over Chinese human rights issues has softened after the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008.
Last year, Ma’s statement on the Tiananmen Massacre drew mixed reactions from both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, who said Ma toned down his comments and did not highlight China’s human rights violations.
In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Ma affirmed plans to issue a statement today. While saying that the Chinese government has to face the incident squarely and take steps to heal wounds, sort out feelings of injustice and ease the pain of victims and their families, Ma added that China had made dramatic changes and improvements in the last 21 years.
The comments made by Taiwan’s president were disappointing, Ho said yesterday, especially because “China’s human rights abuses are getting worse year-by-year.”
“After 2008, our president has dropped its criticism of China’s human rights issues and even praised it in some cases. Does the government still hold basic human rights values at heart?” Academia Sinica research fellow Fort Liao (廖福特) asked. “Taiwan should model itself on Western countries when they express support for human rights. It shouldn’t forget all about it [human rights] when dealing with China.”
At a separate setting yesterday, the DPP issued harsh criticism of China’s human rights record and said Beijing should start political reforms and stop exerting pressure on activists.
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) released a statement after meeting with Ho yesterday, saying that China’s human rights and political freedoms have not kept pace with its economic growth.
“[China] has to respect people’s requests for democracy. It needs to stop its persecution of reformers, initiate political changes and work toward universal values such as freedom and human rights,” Tsai said in the statement.
A separate statement also released by the party’s Central Standing Committee said that since Ma’s inauguration, the president has kept silent on China’s prosecution of human rights reformers and democracy activists.
It said that both democracy and human rights were issues that should be included as part of future cross-strait negotiations, adding that interactions between the two countries should be founded on universal values.
DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) yesterday said the Tiananmen Massacre was a problem that China had to face, and called on the Chinese government to “positively meet this historical wound” by offering an apology and compensation to its victims.
Additional reporting by CNA
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