Wed, Mar 14, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Include prisoner rights in cross-strait talks: groups

UNBALANCED:The groups said China refuses to detail how many Taiwanese are detained, while in Taiwan, all Chinese prisoners are afforded universal human rights

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Prisoner rights should be included in the next round of cross-strait negotiations so that visitation rights and the right to hire a lawyer are secured for all Taiwanese detained in China, rights groups said yesterday.

Representatives from human rights groups and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) told reporters they were calling for a prisoners’ rights agreement to be signed during the eighth round of cross-strait negotiations.

Representatives of Taiwan and China’s economic and trade offices should be able to visit nationals who are arrested or detained in each other’s territory since both sides have reached an agreement to establish trade offices, said Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群), an assistant professor at Chung Yuan Christian University and convener of the Association of Taiwan Democracy.

“This should be the starting point of the ‘cross-strait human rights agenda,’” Hsu added.

Political differences between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should be excluded from any consideration for human rights, Cross-Strait Agreement Watch Association convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said.

China’s refusal to disclose the location and reason for the detention of Taiwanese is a “clear-and-simple violation of human rights,” Lai said.

While a clause regarding visitation rights was written into a cross-strait judicial assistance agreement, Beijing has not done enough to protect the human rights of Taiwanese who have been arrested or detained in China, Yu said.

In August 2009, Chen Chu-nan (陳竹男) was beaten to death in a Hong Kong prison two days after being arrested, while the family of Taiwanese student Chen Shih-huai (陳仕懷) was not informed of his detention for 13 days and was only allowed to visit him on the 37th day of his detention, Yu said.

The Chinese government has not disclosed how many Taiwanese are currently detained, she said, adding that Taiwan has treated the 151 Chinese nationals currently imprisoned or detained here under regulations adhering to the universal value of human rights.

“China’s poor human rights record has always been one of the most important factors why Taiwanese are hesitant about closer engagement with China,” Academia Sinica research fellow Wu Jieh-min (吳介民) said.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has said human rights are a priority of his administration, should “take his personal initiative of ‘mutual non-denial’ to another level — the mutual non-denial of the basic human rights of people across the Strait,” Wu said.

Taiwan has been trying to talk to China about the issue at every opportunity that has presented itself, Ministry of Justice prosecutor Fan Cheng-chung (范振中) said.

Under Chinese law, defendants and detainees cannot meet their families during the investigation and trial of their case, Fan said, adding that it would be difficult to make changes before the criminal code is amended.

At a separate setting yesterday, DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) proposed that Taipei call on China to respect the values of democracy and human rights and stop its oppression of Tibet and Xinjiang.

The human rights situation in China should be included in all cross-strait negotiations, Hsiao added.

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