Film festival part of move to abolish death penalty


Thu, Dec 09, 2004 - Page 4

The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (代替死刑推動聯盟) is launching a film festival and discussion panels to present the topic of the death penalty to the public in a more approachable manner.

"This social movement is not just about [speaking for the] wrongful convicted, but about the value of life," said Wu Chi-kwang (吳志光), an assistant professor of law at Fu Jen Catholic University, a leading member of the alliance.

Murder by Numbers

"Murder by Numbers," the name of the film festival, starts Friday at Taipei's President Cinema and runs through Dec. 15. The festival consists of 10 films which are of Taiwanese and foreign productions, all related to the topic of capital punishment.

The featured Taiwanese documentary film is called Going Home (回家), which was about an aboriginal woman who forgave a death row inmate whose crime led to the death of her brother. Moved by the woman's forgiveness through correspondence, the convict repented for his wrongdoing. Nevertheless, in the end, the convict served his death penalty.

"When this film was played at a youth correction center a few years, it touched the hearts of a young people there. Years later, this boy approached me and told me how much the film had touched his heart, and it was the reason why he later became a counselor at the correction center," said Wu Hsiu-ching (吳秀菁), the film's director.

Tsai Pi-yu (蔡碧玉), the director of the Ministry of the Justice's Prosecutorial Affairs Department, said the plan to abolish the death penalty had long been on the ministry's agenda.

In a press conference in 2001, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) made a promise to abolish the death penalty within three years. Although the promise has yet to be delivered, the number of inmates serving the death penalty has declined significantly over the years. According to Tsai, 17 individuals were put to death in 2000, 10 in 2001, nine in 2002, seven in 2003, and down to three so far this year.

"The most important thing about the policy to abolish the death penalty is communicating with the public, which is concerned about public safety [once the penalty has been lifted]," Tsai said.

James Seymour, a senior researcher at Columbia University's East Asian Institute, supports the abolition of the death penalty as he valued the sacredness of life.