Booming social and rights activism in China will bring change to China someday, in the same way that Taiwanese fought for and brought about democracy to their country, but Chinese rights activists deserve more support from the international community, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) said in Taipei yesterday.
“I also believe that human rights should be the foundation of cross-strait peace,” said the 41-year-old activist, who became the first Chinese dissident to make a speech at the Legislative Yuan.
Chen, who is visiting Taiwan for the first time, received a warm welcome from the Parliamentary Cross-Party Group on International Human Rights and an audience of hundreds in the morning, before making a speech titled “Human rights and cross-strait peace” at the legislature.
“The way the Chinese people are fighting for their rights now is very similar to the Taiwanese people’s struggle in the 1980s. The international community’s constant attention would be as crucial in pressuring Beijing’s authoritarian regime as the way it pressured the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration into making changes,” said Chen, who arrived on Sunday on an 18-day visit.
The former lawyer, who fled China last year for the US, reiterated that the success story of Taiwan’s democracy has “caused panic” in China, where reportedly more than 200,000 protests of more than 100 participants occur every year.
Chen said that social activism in China has gone from protecting personal rights to the rights of others, a sign of a maturing civic society, citing the case of hundreds of netizens and Chinese citizens’ attempt to visit him while he was under house arrest between 2010 and last year.
Asked about the scuffles taking place on the floor of the legislature in Taipei at the time in a question-and-answer session, Chen said it was “better to have a fight in parliament than seeing tanks on the street,” referring to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, in which Beijing used tanks to suppress protesters.
Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing (袁偉靜), later visited the legislature’s assembly hall, where KMT and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers tangled on the podium over disagreements.
While the lawmakers never left their positions, they chanted in sync to welcome Chen, who sat on the public gallery on the second floor.
Accompanied by former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), the activist visited the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park, where political prisoners were jailed during the White Terror period, in the afternoon.
Lu, a former political prisoner who spent 10 months in the compound, guided Chen around various locations in the park, including the courtroom where political prisoners of the Kaohsiung Incident stood trial and the jail cell where she had been incarcerated.
Chen said he was glad the tragic past has been preserved and documented in Taiwan, but felt sad at the same time because “oppression like this is taking place in China.”
Lu said she encouraged Chen to return to China and take on a leading role in promoting social activism, rather than staying overseas, because that would be the way to “make things happen.”
Lu added that the people of Taiwan should not “deify” Chen, since there are many Taiwanese martyrs who deserve people’s respect.
After being refused meetings with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) since his arrival, Chen is scheduled to meet with DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) today.