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Taipei to host Asia democratization forum

Taipei will host the inaugural meeting of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA) this week, with more than 100 former and incumbent officials and civic leaders from over 20 countries participating.

Former President Lee Teng-hui and four former national leaders from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan will take part in the meeting, Vice Foreign Minister Michael Yin-mao Kau, was cited by the Central News as saying.

Kau doubles as the executive director of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), which is the chief organizer of the biennial meeting from Sept. 15 17 at the Taipei International Convention Center.

The TFD was founded in June 2003 with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Legislature.

Kau said that more than 100 ranking officials from governments and civic groups from more than 20 Asian countries will take part in the WFDA meeting.

Experts and democracy activists from Europe, America and Africa will also attend the biennial meeting, he added.

The three-day meeting will feature a number of speakers on different subjects, such as:

— Canadian parliamentarian David Kilgour on human rights in Asia.

Michael H. H. Hsiao, national policy adviser to President Chen Shui-bian, on the experience of Taiwan’s democratization.

— Professor Arthur Waldron of the University of Pennsylvania on the outlook of democratic development in Asia.

President Chen, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and Foreign Minister Tan Sun Chen are expected to deliver speeches at the event, Kau said.

Vice President Annette Lu and Premier Frank Hsieh will host dinners in honor of the participants, he added.

As the rise of China has become a hot topic in the world, the meeting will also study the impact of China’s rise on the development of democracies in Asia.

The forum will also exchange views on such issues as religion, women, direct democracy and political responsibility, Kau said.

The vice foreign minister told CNA that WFDA could be a useful tool for the United Nations and would provide valuable counseling.

Initiated by the TFD, Kau said several leading democratic institutes in Asia forged a consensus to promote the WFDA.

He noted that the organizational team was inaugurated in October 2004, and its members included the TFD, the Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia, the Alternative Asean Network on Burma, Forum Asia Democracy, and Initiatives for International Dialogue.

The chairmen of the non-governmental organizations will come to Taipei to attend the meeting, he said.

Kau said that the inaugural meeting will discuss and adopt guidelines to promote the solidarity of Asian democracies, support democracy activists who are opposed to authoritarian regimes, and solicit support from the international community on democratization in Asia.

The plan is to submit the guidelines to the United Nations’ Secretariat and member states for reference, and obtain the status of providing counselling to the U.N.

The WFDA hopes its opinions can be heard in related U.N. meetings, he added.

Another focus of the meeting will be to discuss the formation of an index on which to gauge the quality of democratic countries in Asia.

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