President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) returned home from a trip to Panama and the US with many accomplishments. Some have hailed the trip as a landmark in Taiwan-US relations since the ties between the two were severed in 1979. Indeed it was.
Taiwan embarked upon a historical journey toward democracy in 1980s. Even though many Tai-wanese are still unsatisfied with the system and would like to refine it so that the democracy can be consolidated, the achievements in recent years have already been remarkable.
The 2003 Human Rights Award given to Chen by the International League of Human Rights is a high-profile recognition of the nation's effort to place itself on the same standard as advanced democracies in the area of human-rights protection. This award represents the pride of this small country that strives to be recognized by the international community for its efforts.
The award ceremony in New York City, the home of the UN and the center stage for world politics, was spectacular. To make the award even more meaningful, the US Congress welcomed Chen's stopover in the US with a resolution, 416-0 in a roll-call vote. As stated by two senior congress-men, this kind of consensus was truly rare on Capital Hill, because the representatives strongly believed that Taiwan deserved the recognition.
Many participants at the ceremony, as well as those who were watching TV at home, were moved when the congressmen congratulated Taiwan and its leader, prompting cheers and tears. It was no less spectacular that the audience in New York and the folks at home in Taiwan could share the emotion simultaneously through the televised broadcast. Major international media were also present, putting Taiwan and its leader in the spotlight. International media also followed the delegation throughout the trip.
The "no publicity" rule because of the private nature of the transit visit was rendered obsolete. That made the people quite happy because they knew that Taipei's relations with the US were not the price to pay for the warming relations between the US and China.
It was unbelievable to learn on the airplane that Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski was ready to hold a red-carpet reception right at the airport together with the chair-person of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the key officials in the great glacier state. Such unprecedented reception by the governor was so overwhelming that it warmed the freezing air. What more could Taiwan ask for in any presidential trip to the US?
In every event that was described by the local media as a "breakthrough," the AIT chairperson, the representative of the US government dealing with Taiwan, was there with Chen. It signified the US endorsement of the public and private activities of Chen while in New York and Alaska.
We were told, again and again, that the US was pleased with the stopovers, and delighted that Chen was able to receive the rights award in New York. Apparently, the US government was delighted to see that its policy of promoting human rights and democracy was bearing fruit in Taiwan.
I am certain that the majority of the people in Taiwan share my feelings that the US government is taking the right approach in its relations with Taiwan. Heart-felt appreciation is not enough to express the gratitude of the government and people.
Joseph Wu is the deputy secretary-general to the president.
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