Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Blind exile may visit Taiwan

KEY TEST:Allowing Chen Guangcheng to journey to the nation and speak at the legislature will be a key sign of the Ma administration’s resolve on human rights

Staff writer, with CNA

Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng speaks during a press conference in the US Capitol building in Washington on Aug 1.

Photo: EPA

Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) has agreed to visit Taiwan and the Mainland Affairs Council has responded positively to the idea, the president of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights said on Monday.

Chen, a civil rights lawyer and activist who managed to escape house arrest in his hometown in Shandong Province, China, in May and is now a visiting academic at New York University, has agreed to visit Taiwan, but the exact timing has yet to be decided, Yang Hsien-hung (楊憲宏) said.

Yang said he had been contacting Chen’s wife almost once a week during her husband’s house arrest.

“We have developed a trusting relationship,” he said.

Yang has asked Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), who is in the US to observe the Republican National Convention, to formally invite Chen to Taiwan when he visits the Chinese activist in New York on Friday.

“I’ll invite Chen to visit Taiwan on behalf of Yang and I’ll also invite him to deliver a speech at our legislature on behalf of [DPP] party whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘),” Lin said.

The invitation could present Taiwan’s government with a dilemma and test its commitment to human rights.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has worked to cultivate better relations with Beijing since he first took office in May 2008, and it has been reluctant at times to allow visits by individuals considered thorns in the side of the Chinese Communist Party, such as Uighur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, to avoid disturbing improving ties.

However, Yang said he has informed Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) of his plan to host Chen’s visit to Taiwan and got a “positive response.”

“[She] praised the plan as being ‘very good,’” Yang said, adding that Lai has even assigned a staffer to help with the planning.

An official with the council, the agency in charge of planning Taiwan’s China policy, said the council is aware of a civic group’s plan to invite Chen to Taiwan and has provided it with information about application procedures, and needed documents and application forms.

Because Taiwan is a liberal democratic country, Chinese expatriates are welcome to visit Taiwan as long as they submit applications in accordance with existing regulations, the official said.

The law currently requires that such visits receive the prior approval of the National Immigration Agency.

Blind from an early age, the self-taught Chen is frequently described as a “barefoot lawyer” who advocates women’s rights and the welfare of the poor.

He is best known for exposing abuses in China’s official family-planning policy, often involving claims of violence and forced abortions.

Chen was sentenced to four years and three months for “damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic.”

He was released from prison in 2010 after serving his full sentence, but remained under house arrest at his home in Dongshigu Village.

In April this year, Chen escaped his house arrest and fled to the US embassy in Beijing. After negotiations with the Chinese government, he left the embassy for medical treatment in early May.

On May 19, Chen, his wife and his two children were granted US visas and departed Beijing for New York.

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