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Taiwan: An Ironic Human Rights Day

In this article, I will carry on the subject from my last article in bringing you information on human rights in Taiwan.

Top Ten News on Human Rights

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) released their picks for “Top Ten News on Human Rights in 2007″ just before the International Human Rights Day. Due to the fact that human rights violations committed by nations are tightly connected with the level of awareness of decision makers and public servants, the TAHR released a “Survey of Candidates in the 2008 Presidential and Congressional Elections on Human Rights Issues”. We can only hope that voters will cast their vote according to the candidates’ position on human rights issues.

Government officials make sexually discriminatory comments

An official from the Ministry of Education used the words “girly” and “gay” as a derogatory attack on a political opponent. This triggered enraged reactions from gay rights activists, who held a joint media conference to condemn such behaviour. The official, however, simply brushed off their concern by saying that “‘gay’ and ‘girly’ were simply used as adjectives”. Bi angrily protested against this behaviour in his blog:

他說的可太輕易了!他可知道有學生就是因為娘,所以受盡男同學的欺負,不敢上廁所怕遭脫褲要驗明正身。他可知道,就是有男人將 gay當作取笑與羞辱的形容詞,以致於一個活生生的男同志在成長過程中,不敢面對與展現真實的自我,一旦出櫃還有遭到排擠失去工作的風險。這種成長經驗的 痛苦,豈是「gay是一個形容詞」所能帶過。

How could he have brushed it off so lightly! Does he know that some students endure bullying from other male classmates for being “girly”, and some are afraid to go to the toilet for fear of being stripped to prove their “manhood”? Does he know that it is precisely because of the derogatory use of the word “gay” that gay men find it difficult to face and to express their true selves in their adolescence, and then face the risk of being ostracised and even fired when the do come out of the closet? These painful experiences gay men endure due to the derogatory use of the word “gay” cannot be brushed off with “it's just an adjective”.

The Taiwanese Feminist Scholars Association also took the opportunity to condemn the use of Patriarchal verbal violence by a number of political figures. Together with other activist groups concerned about gender related issues, they demanded that the Ministry of Education take full responsibility for such behaviour according to the Education (gender discrimination) Act. The activist groups say that the use of discriminatory speech is a serious setback in the gender equality movement and threatens democracy.

An Ironic Human Rights Day

On 10 December, Human Rights Day, the Taiwan Human Rights Park had its opening ceremony. The park is built on the site of a former prison for political prisoners. Victims and their families were invited to the ceremony. Ironically, LeSheng activist groups who attended to protest were mercilessly expelled and arrested!

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photo by pinglhow

CoolLoud.com has detailed reports on the incident, and CivilMedia has video clips. Chen, a student who attended the event wrote about what happened in first person account:

大官們魚貫的入場,我們高喊著那些大官們的名字,渴求他們走過來聽聽我們的訴求,看看人權真實的樣貌。無奈,大官沒有來,警察、國安、刑警卻向我們包圍、靠攏。

As the officials filed in, we called out their names, hoping that they would come and listen to our stories and our requests, and to open their eyes to the real meaning of human rights. Unfortunately, none of the officials came over, but the police, national security officers and riot police came towards us and rounded us up.

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Under the threatening gestures from the police (ground barriers have been cleared by this stage), we had no choice but to fall back against a wall, on which, ironically, hung the artistically crafted sign that says “Taiwan Human Rights Park”.

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Grandmas and Gradpas sitting in wheelchairs under this sign. How, very, puzzling.

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Picture: President Chen Shuibian chaired the opening ceremony of the Taiwan Human Rights Park this morning. Not far from the ceremony, the police were forcefully breaking up a demonstration held by citizens protesting on the LeSheng Leprosy Institute issue. President Chen simply said: “See how different we are from the Nationalist Party.” Photo by coolloud

Minorities supporting each other: new immigrants and gender minorities

Such a chaotic situation may make some people hopeless, but at each corner of society , minority groups are supporting each other! From November, Taiwan's Vietnamese newspaper BaoBonPhuong (Four Corners) united with other BBS sites run by gender minority groups began a project of synchronised reporting of human rights news, focusing on discussions regarding homosexuality, new immigrants, and other issues related to people in the minority. BaoBonPhuong is the only Vietnamese language newspaper in Taiwan. It is targeted towards immigrant workers and new immigrants. The BBS sites involved, on the other hand, are important platforms for contact and information exchange for the gay and lesbian community. The media release of the synchronized reporting project says:

樂生蘇案…許多人權議題仍懸而未決;司法系統或警方對同志、原住民、新移民的不當作為頻傳…社會各處仍有許多無理的對待。這一次跨族群的互惠行動,希望能為人權的寒冬注入一股暖流。

LeSheng Leprosy Institute, The Case of the Three Death Penalties… many human rights issues are yet to be resolved. We often hear about the inappropriate treatment of gays and lesbians, indigenous people and new immigrants by the police…unreasonable behaviour still abounds in our society. This cross-group action benefits all involved and we hope it would add a warm touch to the winter of the human rights movement.

This article is originally written by Foolfitz, and translated into English by Yi. Both Foolfitz and Yi are translators of GV Chinese Lingua.

6 comments

  • Human right associations and commission in Asia is sleeping a long sleep. Every day we notice thousands of human right violation cases in over India, Pak, and other Asian countries. In India thousand and thousands of cases are pending in human right commission. People approaching commission find this useless.
    I want to ask world why they are silent on this issue. When common man in this region will find justice?
    Ground realities are much more diffrent from figures.

  • LOL. ESWN picked this up; he’s so predictable.

    Michael

  • Macca

    This is a rather half-hearted attempt to make Taiwan look like a police state. Taiwan was a police state. This was at the time when the the Human Rights Park you referred to was a place where torture and murder took place.
    Nobody likes to see demonstartors taken away, but I think you would have to agree their fate (ie. released without charge) is a lot better than it would have been in the not too distant past.
    I think we need some balance here.
    It should be noted that Taiwan is now regarded as ‘Free’ by Freedom House. And in ‘Freedom of the Press 2007: A Global Survey of Media Independence’ Taiwan came number one in Asia.

  • […] This is a very complex picture. Taiwan’s President and Vice-President were prisoners in this building during the White Terror. On Human Rights Day they announced its conversion into a Human Rights Memorial. However, at the same time, “not far from the ceremony, the police were forcefully breaking up a [peaceful] demonstration held by citizens protesting on the LeSheng Leprosy Institute issue.” More about the protest here. […]

  • Chris

    Actually, human right in Taiwan is highly valued. I myself have participated in Lesheng Leprosy Institute protesting actions, and thus I learned the police violence by the pain on my own body. I learned what we call “human right” and “freedom”, which we take for granted in Taiwan, are actually limitted. This is a nation of liberty only when you don’t against the government’s will. When the government wants to build new rails or highways, residents there are forced to move, even if they are of old ages, even if the natural and cultural environment there are not suitable for those buildings.

    Human right problem is much more serious in China, Burma, India, and so on, not to mention some Islam countries which still accuse women of being raped, it’s evil.
    I guess the situation Taiwanese people are facing is everywhere in the world, sadly. We have to fight against it.

  • Yi

    Just realised there’s a mistake in my translation in the final paragraph. The correct translation is as follows:
    “LeSheng Leprosy Institute, The Case of the Three Death Penalties… many human rights issues are yet to be resolved. We often hear about the inappropriate treatment of gays and lesbians, indigenous people and new immigrants by the justice system or the police [sic.]…unreasonable behaviour still abounds in our society. This cross-group action benefits all involved and we hope it would add a warm touch to the winter of the human rights movement.”
    Apologies…

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