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May 26, 2017

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Ma calls for human rights endorsement

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday called on lawmakers to endorse two documents for the protection of human rights, but the opposition camp claimed that human rights conditions have been back pedalling since he took office in May.

Ma asked the Legislature to give its long-delayed endorsement to two international human rights documents to help implement human rights protection in Taiwan.

He was referring to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

He made the remarks while addressing the presentation of the 2008 Asian Democracy and Human Rights Award, an annual event organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy to mark Dec. 10 International Human Rights Day.

The year's award went to Sima Samar, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and founder of the Shuhada Organization, a non government group dedicated to the welfare and progress of Afghan people, with a primary focus on the empowerment of women and girls.

But elsewhere, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the detentions of several prominent opposition figures on corruption suspicions have been a demonstration of Taiwan's worsening human rights conditions.

Chiayi County Magistrate Chen Ming-wen, who staged a hunger strike in jail before he was released on bail last month, said it is unfair to lock up a suspect without bringing formal charges.

The law in Taiwan allows prosecutors to detain suspects as long as four months without indicting them.

At the ceremony, Ma said Taiwan's improvements in its human rights record over the past 15 years have greatly impressed world human rights groups.

He said Taiwan has changed from a "partly free" country to a "free" country.

Thanks to the government's continued efforts to uphold human rights, Taiwan has now become "the world's freest country" in terms of the people's right to assembly, which he said was very well demonstrated by several protests at the ceremony in support of a variety of causes.

The protesters included several supporters of Tibetan independence who were there to express their opposition to Ma's recent rejection of a proposed visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama, and an activist against the government's recent relocation of a sanatorium for leprosy patients.

The two documents that Ma was asking lawmakers to support were introduced by the United Nations in 1966 and came into force in 1976.

Ma said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will again present the covenants to the Cabinet during a weekly Cabinet meeting Thursday, to highlight the importance Taiwan attaches to human rights.

After that, the documents will be forwarded to the Legislature for review, Ma said.

Ma noted that although the Republic of China signed the treaties before losing its U.N. membership in 1971, they have never been endorsed by the country's Legislature over the ensuing 40 years.

During the eight-year DPP administration that ended earlier this year, the covenants were submitted by the Cabinet to lawmakers for endorsement four times, but none of the attempts were successful, Ma said. 

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