Sep 19, 2007

Tibet: Taiwan Strengthens Bonds with Tibet

At the International Symposium on Human Rights in Tibet, Taiwan’s President has restated his government’s recognition of Tibet as a separate entity, hoping to further cooperation after decades of a ‘delicate’ relationship.

In the opening speech of the International Symposium on Human Rights in Tibet, Taiwan’s President Chen has restated his government’s recognition of Tibet as a separate entity from China, hoping to further cooperation after decades of a ‘delicate’ relationship. 

Below is a speech by President Chen of Taiwan:

Vice President McMillan-Scott of the European Parliament; Director Ackerly of International Campaign for Tibet; President Fautre of Human Rights without Frontiers International; Chairman Hsu of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission; Distinguished Guests; Dear Friends from Tibet; Human Rights and Tibet Advocates; Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good Morning!

It is a great pleasure to have been invited to attend the 2007 International Symposium on Human Rights in Tibet. Participants in this conference include Tibetan friends from all over the world; representatives of Tibet; support groups and human rights organizations from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, India, Mexico, Sweden, Norway and Japan; and overseas Chinese democracy activists. This symposium has provided a rare opportunity for each of you to visit Taiwan. On behalf of the government and 23 million people of Taiwan, I would like to start by sincerely welcoming to Taiwan all of our friends from home and abroad who care about human rights in Tibet. I would also like to express our highest respect for your long-standing commitment to improving human rights in Tibet.

The relationship between Taiwan and Tibet is a delicate one. Historically speaking, there had been little contact between the two sides until the Kuomintang (KMT) government moved to Taiwan. As the KMT viewed Tibet as a part of the Republic of China, Taiwan was thereby indirectly linked to Tibet. However, such a relationship has never received wide acknowledgement among Taiwanese or Tibetans. As more and more Taiwanese people now recognize that the territory of this country covers only such islands as Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu, they also are increasingly aware that Tibet has never been a part of their country.

Therefore, our government structure of eight ministries and two commissions as stipulated in the Constitution has long been outdated. We need to review and adjust the role and function of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC) promptly and comprehensively. Although government restructuring has yet to be completed, we have taken active steps to transform the MTAC into an organization to promote relations with these ethnic groups.

In 1997, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, defied a political taboo by visiting Taiwan, thereby breaking the ice for Tibet and Taiwan. In 2001, the Dalai Lama visited Taiwan again and met with me.

Regardless of China's oppression and intimidation, the Dalai Lama expressed in our meeting his firm belief that Taiwan's future should be decided by the people of Taiwan. I profoundly admire the Dalai Lama's faith in humankind's free will and right to choose values. That visit not only enhanced mutual understanding and deepened the friendship between Taiwan and Tibet, but also helped consolidate the cordial relations between the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Taiwan government.

During the inauguration conference of the Taiwan-Tibet Exchange Foundation in 2003, I announced our new policy and emphasized that the Taiwan government will no longer treat people of the Tibetan government-in-exile as Chinese people. Instead, we will handle our relations with Tibet and China separately under this fresh perspective on our relations with Tibet.

Our new policy has helped resolve many problems troubling the exchanges between the peoples of Taiwan and Tibet over the years.

Today, Tibet and Taiwan share a common plight due to intimidation from a hegemonic China. That is why Taiwan's 23 million people can empathize with the suffering Tibetan people. It is because we understand the feelings of the Tibetans that we firmly support them and wish them the best in their pursuit of self-determination. We also unreservedly respect any decision the Dalai Lama makes on the future of Tibet. I sincerely hope that closer cooperation can be fostered between Taiwan and the Tibetan government-in-exile, and that we can support and encourage each other's quest for freedom, peace, and human rights.

Taiwan and Tibet represent global endeavors to confront an authoritarian China and the fight for freedom under the shadow of China's military threats. We also form a litmus test for measuring the international community's commitment to protecting human rights. If even the democratic, peace-loving government of Taiwan and the Tibetan government-in-exile are made subject to China's military threats, the international society truly has little reason left to continue harboring illusions about China.

China attempts to demonstrate its might and promote its image by hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. However, China continues to fail to improve its human rights record and just hopes to use the glamour of the Olympic Games to whitewash its prevalent human rights problems. It even seeks to prohibit foreign journalists from freely conducting interviews and uncovering the truth. By the same token, Beijing sets up absurd regulations that infringe on human rights, such as a ban on 43 categories of people from entering China during the Olympics. The 2008 Olympic Games could easily end up making a total mockery of the goals to preserve human dignity and respect universal fundamental ethical principles as espoused in the Olympic Charter.

I would like to reiterate that, based on the friendship and common interests shared by the Taiwan government and the Tibetan government-in-exile, Taiwan will continue to support the Tibetan people in safeguarding their fundamental human rights and fighting for their right to self-determination. Taiwan will resolutely respect any solution proposed by the Dalai Lama to resolve the Tibet problem. I also hope that the Dalai Lama will accept our invitation to visit Taiwan again, so that we can further strengthen exchange and cooperation between Taiwan and Tibet, and pray and fight together for the peace, freedom, and human rights of the peoples of Tibet and Taiwan.

In closing, on behalf of the people and government of Taiwan, I would like to once again welcome all the distinguished guests and thank the host and organizers of the conference for their hard work. I am convinced that freedom, peace, and human rights stand side by side with justice and truth, and that, as long as we work with the same mindset, the international community and people across the globe will eventually commend and support our efforts. I wish this symposium every success and our distinguished guests and friends good health and happiness. Thank you!

Source: Office of the President, Taiwan