Sun, May 12, 2013 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Democracy Watch speaks on ‘Declaration’

A group of Taiwanese academics at Taiwan Democracy Watch recently published a manifesto titled ‘A Declaration of Free Men,’ aimed at reframing cross-strait relations, which it said have prized economic prosperity above everything else and have been monopolized by egotistical politicians on both sides of the Strait. Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology associate research fellow Wu Jieh-min, one of the manifesto’s drafters, commented on the manifesto in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Tzou Jiing-wen and called on the public to protect their democratic way of life by employing the ‘weapon of human rights’

Wu Jieh-min, an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology and member of Taiwan Democracy Watch, gestures during an interview on May 2.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): What prompted Democracy Watch members to issue the “Declaration of Free Men” (自由人宣言), and why now?

Wu Jieh-min (吳介民): The reasons are simple. We want to emancipate cross-strait exchanges from the shackle of monopoly by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which have been using such exchanges as a platform to distribute benefits to privileged politicians and businesspeople. We seek to create a new framework for cross-strait exchanges from the viewpoint of the people, the governed.

The Chinese government has gradually forced President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration into a corner and has begun to suggest that both sides enter a political dialogue. However, under the constraint of the so-called “1992 consensus,” China is not likely to give Taiwan any options except for the one including “ultimate unification.”

Over the years, only KMT and CCP representatives have been allowed to sit at the cross-strait negotiating table, where they have inked 18 accords and satisfied the interests of only privileged government officials and businesspeople. The people have been excluded from the process and denied chances to supervise the process and voice their opinions.

At a time when the Chinese government is apparently speeding up its pace in marching toward its ultimate goal [unification] — particularly after Ma took office for his second term last year — and when China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its favored organizations are keeping up pressure on Taipei to move to cross-strait political talks, we have felt the urgency to find a solution from the framework of civil society.

We understand that some parts [of the declaration] could be somewhat idealistic, but since we are not politicians, we are not fettered by the political games of elections.

The manifesto has taken a giant leap in cross-strait relations by demanding that discussions on “the people,” “human rights” and “the sovereignty of the people” be included in the scope of cross-strait rapprochement. We urge both sides of the Taiwan Strait to work to improve their human rights conditions and sign a human rights charter, and oppose any form of cross-strait political engagement until these two conditions are fulfilled.

In other words, what the declaration is trying to achieve is to mark a battle line for ideological movements, in which the most powerful weapons are human rights and the sovereignty of the people.

Human rights may be the weapon of the weak, but they are also a “demon-revealing mirror” for authoritarians and those who support such regimes.

Since what we are promoting are ideological movements, we don’t look for short-term outcomes, but a gradual awakening of the spirit of the people as a whole.

LT: Publication of the declaration has sparked discussion and elicited varied responses, including negative comments by some media outlets that it is an exemplification of “democratic triumphalism” and “human rights triumphalism.” What are your opinions on this?

Wu: Taiwan is only geographically separated by a body of water from China, a rising regime whose rulers have silenced [Chinese Nobel laureate] Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), — an advocate of Chinese democracy and constitutional government — sentenced him to jail and put his wife, Liu Xia (劉霞), under house arrest.

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