Saying the government’s performance in terms of advancing human rights protection is not up to par, Council of Cultural Affairs Minister Emile Sheng (盛治仁) yesterday said the government and society as a whole need to work together to embed the concept of human rights in the pubic’s mind.
Sheng made the remarks at the International Conference on the Propagation and Implementation of the Idea of Human Rights. This year’s conference in Taipei was titled, “The Promotion and Implementation of Taiwanese Cultural Policy and the Concept of Human Rights.”
“When it comes to human rights issues, it can’t be just paying lip service,” he added.
Saying the government hasn’t done enough to address human rights issues, Sheng said construction of the national human rights museum will start soon. The new museum is expected to open in 2012, when it would be under the care of a designated ministry of cultural affairs, along with the Green Island Human Rights Culture Park and Jing Mei Human Rights Memorial and Culture Park, Sheng told the conference, which was organized by the Taipei Municipal University of Education and Soochow University, and brought activists from local non-government agencies to exchange views with international experts.
Peter Huang (黃文雄), convener of Covenants Watch, a coalition of more than 40 civic groups concerned with human rights, also presented a paper at the conference in which he examined what progress has been made in Taiwan after the ratification of the UN Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, as well as on economic, social and cultural rights, along with an Implementation Act.
“How has Taiwan done since last March? I am sorry I have to say: Not well at all. There are grave problems and difficulties in planning preparation and implementation,” his paper said.
Taiwan’s first ever attempt at implementing international human rights covenants has had a slow, disorganized and inauspicious start, Huang said in the paper.
The government’s half-hearted performance and the exclusion of the country from international human rights bodies both contributed to the result, Huang’s paper said, adding that Taiwan desperately needs international assistance.
Chinese dissident Bei Ling (貝嶺) also took part in the conference.An exiled Chinese poet and essayist who was imprisoned in 2000 in Beijing for trying to publish a -literary magazine, Bei Ling suggested at the conference that Taiwan implement writer-in-residence programs to have writers write memoirs for people who endured political oppression during the period of martial law.
Bei Ling spoke of his experiences of being detained and hurt by Chinese police when he made a transfer at the Beijing Capital Airport last month. Bei Ling was then on his way from Germany to Taiwan to attend yesterday’s conference and was deported back to Germany several hours later with his luggage still confiscated.
Bei Ling said he feels great pain when he stands too long or when he bends at the waist after the incident and he might have to wear waist support for the rest of his life.