US congressmen heap praise on Chen

NEW YORK VISIT:The US House of Representatives voted unanimously to welcome the Taiwanese president, calling the nation one of its closest allies in the Asia-Pacific region

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 3

Congressmen heaped praise on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and on Taiwan as the US House of Representatives voted 416-0 Thursday evening to welcome Chen to the US in advance of his transit visit to New York.

"Our brave friend President Chen leads an island of hope, a light shining out from dark shadows of an oppressive tyranny," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said on the House floor as the chamber discussed the House resolution welcoming Chen.

"With this resolution we will tell the citizens of that shining island that we see their light on the horizon and know the sun of freedom is rising over the Pacific."

The "sense of Congress" resolution, which speaks of "more than 50 years of an iron-clad relationship" between the Washington and Taipei governments, offers its "warmest welcome" to Chen, calls the visit "a significant step toward broadening and deepening the friendship and cooperation between the United States and China," and thanks Chen and Taiwan for their humanitarian and medical assistance in Afghanistan and post-war Iraq, plus Taiwan's "willingness to contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East."

It also congratulates Chen on the human rights award he was to receive from the International League for Human Rights last night, and asks Chen to communicate to Taiwan the support of Congress and the American people.

Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, praised Taiwan as "one of our closest allies in the Asia-Pacific region," and said he looked forward to meeting Chen in New York this weekend.

"If Taiwan were any other nation, President Chen would be welcomed with a [White House] Rose Garden ceremony, a state dinner and the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress," he said in his floor remarks.

"These honors would be commensurate with the increasingly close and mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries," Lantos said.

He and other congressmen also reiterated their strong support for Taiwan's participation in the work of the World Health Organization and other international organizations.

Eleven members spoke or presented written comments in praise of Chen and Taiwan, including three of the co-chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.

Contrasting modern Taiwan with the days of martial law under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), caucus co-chair Sherrod Brown, said: "That miracle, that road to progress, that road to democracy was in large part because of the courage and the fervor for human rights exerted by people like Chen Shui-bian, who sacrificed a great deal of his life, his family's life and much of his time on this earth to bring Taiwan forward."

"He and his political party, the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party], have done a miraculous job in helping to create the miracle that we know as Taiwan. It is a country that we should look at as a model for much of the rest of the world," he said.

The House resolution, introduced by the four caucus co-chairmen, also praises Taiwan for its "unequivocal support for human rights and a commitment to the democratic ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, rule of law, and fair elections."

The resolution is similar to the measure passed without objection by the House in May 2001 in advance of Chen's last trip to New York, in which he met Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, visited the New York Stock Exchange and had dinner with a large group of congressmen.

The Senate did not pass a similar resolution then, and has no plans to pass one this time, congressional aides say.