Human rights advocacy groups on Friday screened two documentaries about peoples that have suffered under repressive regimes and said the films could shed light on some lingering challenges in Taiwan.
With gunfire from government soldiers and guerillas, piles of corpses carried in trucks or buried in a large pit, the documentary Burma: A Human Tragedy shows to the world — probably for the first time for many people — what really happened in Myanmar under the military junta.
Another documentary, When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun, filmed in India, Tibet, Beijing and the US over a seven-year period, presents to viewers not only the usual allegations of Chinese repression of Tibetans, but also the debates among Tibetans and between Tibetans and Chinese on the future of Tibet.
“There’s a scene in the movie that I remember quite well: A Chinese person shouted to a group of Tibetan independence supporters [in a rally in San Francisco] ‘Have you been to Tibet? You should shut up if you haven’t,’” Freddy Lim (林昶佐), lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Chthonic and chairman of Amnesty International Taiwan, said at a forum discussing human rights in which the two documentaries were presented. “Many people may have the same mentality, but I think this is wrong.”
“If there’s a father living next door who beats up his son and rapes his own daughter every day, do you think you should just leave him to do what he does, just because you’re not part of the family?” he asked.
Amnesty International Taiwan director Yang Tsung-li (楊宗澧) said that although Myanmar had only just held its first nominally free election since the military junta took power, “some people are already talking about transitional justice.”
“Some people may think it’s too fast for Myanmar to talk about transitional justice now, but ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ is not a question in pursuing the responsibilities of a government that committed human rights violations,” Yang said. “Holding the previous government responsible, that’s what we should do in Taiwan as well.”
Lim and Yang both urged the viewers that, if they felt touched when watching the documentaries, they should pay attention to human rights issues in their own vicinity.
“For instance, you can start by trying to eliminate discrimination toward immigrants, which is common in Taiwan, in your daily life,” Yang said. “Or, as Aung San Suu Kyi said, you could think about how the rights of each person could be better protected as the country seeks economic development — only when human rights are well-protected can a country fully enjoy the fruits of economic development.”
Lim urged people to continue to focus on human rights conditions in countries that have recently democratized.
“You may think it’s the end of the story when Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to the Myanmar parliament or when [former Egyptian president] Hosni Mubarak stepped down during the Jasmine Revolution in Egypt,” Lim said. “But that’s wrong, because the campaign to improve human rights conditions only starts once a dictatorship comes down.”