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’

They participated because they know all too well that democracy is more than just voting and wanted to join us in reflecting on the deficiencies of democratic systems.

The underlying truth is: China remains a nation where people are deprived of the right to freely choose for themselves, yearn for political rights and are calling for the power of their government to be limited.

Now tell me, are human rights and democracy marketable values in China?

Recently, a 10-year-old Chinese girl named Chang Anni (張安妮) was barred from attending school after her father [Chinese civil rights activist Chang Lin (張林)] continued to organize social movements after being released from prison.

Chinese environmentalist Tan Zuoren (譚作人) was sentenced to [five years in] prison on a charge of “inciting subversion of state power” and is still behind bars only because he had planned to issue a report on school buildings that collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Meanwhile, Chen Guangcheng’s scheduled visit to Taiwan [in June] has resulted in his family in Shandong Province being harassed and threatened by unknown men for several consecutive days.

What do you think are the reasons for these people continuing to come forward to fight against totalitarianism while their families and themselves are in such predicaments?

We know why China is so afraid to touch on human rights issues in cross-strait negotiations, but we must ask: What exactly do Taiwanese dread about the topic?

LT: What messages do you want the [Taiwanese] government to receive from the declaration?

Wu: Past cross-strait negotiations have prioritized economic and trade exchanges and ignored human rights issues.

The Ma administration has been disinclined to bring up human rights-related topics with Beijing and has been submissively playing by China’s rules for the “cross-strait game.”

The arrest of Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioner Chung Ting-pang (鍾鼎邦) by China’s National Security Bureau last year highlighted Beijing’s rampant practice of extra-judicial detention, as well as the Taiwanese government’s impotence in protecting its people.

At present, scores of Taiwanese are doing business, working and studying in China, whose rulers can arbitrarily brand religious beliefs as “cults” and law enforcement officers harass local house churches.

Can we afford to not discuss human rights with such a country?

It is for Taiwanese to decide whether they want to sit by while China’s poor human rights standards take a toll on our nation, or instead take the initiative and pick up “the weapon of the weak” to defend our democratic way of life.

Translated by staff writer Stacy Hsu

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