Last month’s EU report on human rights and democracy leaves the impression that capital punishment is the only challenge in Taiwan’s human rights situation and recent democratic development. If the EU takes a reality check, it will find that democratic development has deteriorated even more, as, for instance, Freedom House’s latest press freedom report has documented.
The EU report should not be read as indirect support of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the government. For EU countries, it is not important who is in power because the eurozone increasingly considers Taiwan as a market by itself, with high consumer spending and various investment opportunities, including green technology. Trade and the historic level of EU investments in Taiwan will continue and might even increase in prosperity after next year’s presidential elections with a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government and new political parties in play.
The reason for the omission of additional EU criticism of the nation seems to be that too many human rights and too much democracy disturbs trade and makes meetings with Taiwan more complicated.
It is complicated for the EU to talk about the 18 Europeans who, according to data obtained by Taiwan Corner, were banned from entering Taiwan last year.
Instead, the EU denied knowledge of the cases — which is not true — and has apparently not reacted to the information. The reluctance to engage itself comes after an unjust ban of a young German, which revealed a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Taiwan signed in 2009. The German man has had all the charges dropped.
The Freedom House report showed that journalists feel pressure to self-censor and media companies are wary about upsetting China. The delay of the proposed law against media monopolization and mere discussion of designated areas for the press during demonstrations show a worrying development. The case and the treatment of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is another obvious case that shows challenges with the nation’s legal system.
However, pressure on EU institutions is growing from an increasing number of European politicians, who have a strong focus on human rights, and tend to be less restricted by trade and investment policies.
Moreover, there is a change among European politicians to look more broadly at Taiwan’s political situation and engage with societies independently of who is in government. This is good news, as the EU will become even more important to Taiwan if the EU and the US enter the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The EU is rightly vocal in criticizing Taiwan over capital punishment and for ending the moratorium on executions that lasted from 2005 to 2010. It is encouraging that the EU has partnered with the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty.
Democracy and human rights are the foundation of peaceful and sustainable development, and the EU can be stronger in promoting these universal values among a friend like Taiwan.
Michael Danielsen is the chairman of Taiwan Corner.
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