Taipei Times (TT): Why did you decide to bring the Oslo Freedom Forum to Asia and why did you choose Taiwan as the first Asian host?
Gladstein: Asia is home to more than half of the world’s population, with about 4.4 billion people. If we are ignoring Asia, we are ignoring half of the world, so it is important to build an Oslo Freedom Forum community here.
Taiwan has an inspiring journey to tell. People like Egyptian actor and LGBT rights activist Omar Sharif Jr get really inspired when they hear about Taiwan’s story as a nation, which, without a civil war, went from dictatorship to democracy over time. That is really impressive and inspiring for all the people coming here from Russia, Bahrain and Egypt. They have their own stories to share, but they are also going to learn a lot from Taiwan.
Photo: Stacy Hsu, Taipei Times
The second reason is that it is a Chinese democracy. It is really important because Beijing says it all the time that the Chinese people are not ready for democracy, but Taiwan is living proof that they are liars.
Another reason is technology, which is going to be critical for the future of human rights. A recent Bloomberg article reported that the Chinese government put a backdoor on all Apple equipment whey they were making the chips. All of the devices we use can be used to spy on us, whether it is software like [China’s messaging app] WeChat, or hardware like a Chinese-made phone.
Technology is going to play a key role in whether or not we are going to live under surveillance. Taiwan is going to be really important, because you can make a lot of such equipment here, at companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, Asustek Computer Inc and others.
I would much rather trust a smartphone made here than in China. A lot of people do not realize how absolutely critical the semiconductor industry is to human rights.
TT: By choosing Taiwan as the first Asian host of the forum, are you trying to send a message to autocrats and dictators in the region?
Gladstein: We are not trying to [send a] message or talk to dictators, because we are not trying to scare them through an adversarial message. Our message is one of a positive nature for activists.
We want to tell activists in the region that they have a home and a place to come to — to learn how they can be more effective in getting resources, how technology can help them, how to avoid surveillance and how to bring democracy to their own country. They can come to Taiwan and Taiwan can be the center for that.
I want to make sure that we are on a positive message, not an adversarial and aggressive one. This is a positive conference. Too often, human rights activists are too negative and aggressive. We are trying to bring a narrative where we are building a community of people who care about civil liberty and freedom here.
We also hope [next year’s forum] will be here, but it depends on how well this [year’s forum] goes. Our goal is to build [a community for Asia] here and so far it has been an amazing reception.
TT: Taiwan has a vibrant civic society with scores of non-governmental organizations dedicated to the cause of advancing human rights, freedom and democracy. Do you have plans to cooperate with them?
Gladstein: Last time we were here, we visited many different activist groups, such as the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Open Culture Foundation. Of course we want to include all of them. Our goal is to give them a resource and a place where they can come and learn from other organizations regionally, in the hope that they will receive more support moving forward.
However, our mission is to help people in closed societies. We are not focusing on Taiwan. Taiwan is like the home base for this event and of course we want Taiwanese organizations to be involved, but our focus is on dictatorships.
We believe that Taiwanese can play a key role in that by sharing their own story of how they got here and what they are doing now, such as how Taiwanese people are trying to change the public history of the country, so that young people are not learning about propaganda, but are learning about real history.
TT: You have spoken quite positively about Taiwan’s democracy. Are there areas where you think the country could make a better effort?
Gladstein: No country is perfect. Taiwanese society has a lot of problems, like the economy and jobs. There are promises of gay rights, but it has not happened yet. There is also the death penalty issue.
If Taiwan actually makes same-sex marriage operational, it will be the first of hopefully many [in the region]. It is the same way in the US, where one state legalized same-sex marriage and then it started to spread.
You are going to see the same thing in Asia, hopefully, but Taiwan has to be the first. You can lead the way. If Taiwan is successful, it will be an indicator for the region and others will try to copy it.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration is seeking to join an Indo-Pacific economic framework being planned by the US, a senior official said. The government is paying close attention to the regional economic pact being touted by US President Joe Biden, although too few details have emerged from Washington for Taipei to make specific plans, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The US is expected to launch the Indo-Pacific economic framework next month after negotiations with Australia, India and Japan, the official said. The economic initiative is to tackle trade facilitation, standards for the digital economy and technology, supply-chain resiliency and
PIVOTAL ROLE: Taiwan’s importance in the global chip supply chain can be bolstered by domestic equipment manufacturing, President Tsai Ing-wen said Efforts must be made to better secure Taiwan’s place in the global supply chain by localizing production of equipment and facilities used by the semiconductor industry, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday. Tsai discussed the issue during a meeting with representatives from the Taiwan Electronic Equipment Industry Association at the Presidential Office in Taipei. Product shortages throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly of automotive chips — highlighted the pivotal role of Taiwan in the global supply chain, she said. Tsai thanked the association for cooperating with the government on the shared goal of localizing production of important semiconductor industry equipment.
SEPARATE CASE? A woman tested positive when she went with her daughter to be tested, because her daughter had taken the same bus to school as a steakhouse worker The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 10 local COVID-19 cases, six of whom had visited a steakhouse in Taoyuan where an infection cluster has been reported. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that of the 10 local infections, one case — No. 17,928 — is a Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport disease prevention staffer who works in the area where inbound travelers collect their saliva for a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and sometimes at the fever screening station. The staffer had tested negative in a PCR test on Jan. 9 and
TRACING UNDER WAY: The CECC has identified six transmission chains among 25 recently confirmed COVID-19 cases, including those linked to a restaurant and a bank The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 54 new COVID-19 infections — 44 imported and 10 local — and identified six transmission chains among local cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said the imported cases are 18 who tested positive upon arrival at the airport and 26 who tested positive during quarantine. Of the local cases, seven are associated with a cluster infection at a Tasty Steak (西堤牛排) outlet in Taoyuan’s Zhongli District (中壢), one is linked to a family of four with COVID-19 reported on Monday, one is a family member of an