Tsai Ing-wen's Full Speech at the Seminar on Future and Challenges of Democracy & Human Rights - June 1

"Democracy is the critical cornerstone for China’s peaceful rise, and even more, it is the critical cornerstone for peaceful cross-strait development"

DPP Chair and New Frontier Foundation President Tsai Ing-wen’s comments at the Seminar on Future and Challenges of Democracy and Human Rights - June 1, 2011

Good Morning!

The June 4th Massacre represents an important historical incident in Chinese history, which has affected China’s development over the past ten years and it has deeply influenced their future progress, especially in political development. The DPP has paid constant attention to China’s democratization and human rights because these are extremely important norms. It is admirable that Taiwan, thanks to the sacrifices made by many people, underwent a difficult process to achieve democracy and human rights, a process which intensified in the late 1970s. For this reason, the think tank is holding this seminar today to discuss with our friends throughout the world, who care about democracy and human rights, the future and challenges faced by China’s democratization.

Twenty years after the June 4th incident, China has gone through great reform. Its economic growth has increased in such a way that it has become a regional power. Its influence and economic power have gradually grown so large that the entire world is paying close attention. Scholars nowadays discuss China’s pride and confidence which has grown out of its economic development through the so-called “China Model” and the “Chongqing Socialism 3.0 model”.

This kind of economic fruits is indeed dazzling, but there are also many criticisms of the kind of growth driven by the power of big government, which can cause great damage to democracy and human rights. Already we have seen that, despite China’s rapid economic growth, its human rights situation, democratic development and rule of law have not improved, and suppression of freedom of expression has not been relaxed. The “maintenance of stability” has substituted for “democracy”, becoming the government’s main method in handling reform.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo wrote “Charter 08”, which was launched in 2008. For this, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Last year, he was not given the right to attend the awards ceremony and since then he has been held incommunicado, not even given the privilege of seeing his relatives. The images from the empty chair at the Nobel Peace Awards Ceremony were profoundly moving. In early April, creative, outspoken and well-known international artist Ai Weiwei was also taken by the Chinese government by unwarranted arrest and detention and is now still missing. For criticizing the government, a number of pro-reform intellectuals and activists have been harassed, intimidated and imprisoned on charges of “subversion of state power”. And when the people of China were inspired by the Jasmine Revolution and issued the slogan “political reform, long live democracy”, they were met with a large-scale police repression as a response.

Human rights is a universal value and democracy is the cornerstone guarantee for human rights. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has talked many times about political reform and giving people happiness and dignity, but without freedom of expression, political freedom, human rights, security and true democracy, “happiness” and “dignity” can only be gifts that authoritarian governments give out at random. We wish to express our deepest condolences to the people who sought reform and fought against power, becoming the victims of this fight. We strongly appeal to the Chinese government to start listening to the voices of democracy and start political reform to move toward democratization. Only with democracy, can the people obtain happiness. The right path is to let society gain true harmony and to let China achieve a peaceful rise.

From the viewpoints of the 23 million people in Taiwan, democracy is a foundation for our national system, our security’s basic line of defense and the only option for our livelihood. It is through the choice and practice of democratic values that Taiwan differs from China. China’s one-party autocratic system will hardly be an acceptable option for the people of Taiwan. The establishment of cross strait relations cannot come at a sacrifice of Taiwan’s democratic values. Most importantly, democracy must be employed to uphold the values we hold most dear in order to safeguard a comprehensive option for our future generations. We firmly believe that democracy goes beyond ethnicities and national boundaries, as well as being a value globally pursued. Democracy also represents the cornerstone to resolve any cross strait disputes and a collective aspiration for peace and stability, prosperity and development.

Therefore, not only do we pay close attention to China’s democratization, but we also keep reminding ourselves of the difficulties faced in Taiwan’s democratization process in order to consolidate our hard-won democratic achievements. It is regrettable, however, that since President Ma Ying-jeou took office, the critical attitude and concern surrounding the persecution of human rights by China on June 4th has changed. In order to promote cross strait exchanges and negotiations, our government has been silent and tolerant on the suppression of freedom of expression and the arrests of democracy activists by China. This negative attitude will not help move forward positive change in China, and it will cause a regression of Taiwan’s human rights and democracy standards. From 2008 on, it has become a worrisome warning that Taiwan’s freedom of the press plunged from 32nd to 48th in ranking.

Once again, we solemnly demand that our government demonstrate through concrete actions our support of democratic reform in China. We must clearly express to the world that Taiwan places a high importance on and holds a firm position concerning democracy and human rights. Furthermore, democracy and human rights must be included in the list of topics for cross strait exchanges so that human rights provisions are integrated into any agreements signed with China, making the best use of our democratic assets and supporting China’s democratization process. The DPP will continue to be concerned about China’s democratization. The DPP will also take an active role in engaging in dialogue with China’s democracy activists, at the same time supporting the deepening of Taiwan’s democracy and encouraging China to take a freer and more democratic path.

Very recently, well-known Chinese author Han Han wrote in articles that he hoped China had “both a clean environment and the air of freedom, so that we can drink and laugh as power is caged and not just talk forever about freedom”. We expect to work together so that democracy can take root in China, so that both sides can share the fruits of peaceful development and so that the “jasmine flower” may continue to grow on the air of freedom.

Thank You!