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Nation must allow human rights scrutiny: Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that human rights are a universal value and that countries should be open to foreign scrutiny.

The president yesterday attended the 2013 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award ceremony. The event was hosted by Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. Given the Kuomintang's revocation of Wang's party membership, as well as the subsequent lawsuit which Wang filed, media attention was focused on the interaction between the president and the speaker.

The two were seen entering and leaving the venue together as well as sharing words with one another.

The president said that 65 years ago on Dec. 10, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, marking an important milestone in the history of mankind's struggle for human rights.

Although there have been significant improvements since the declaration was adopted, there are still many places in the world were human rights are neglected and violated, the president said, urging governments across the globe to uphold the sanctity of human rights within their respective jurisdictions.

Human Rights Violation in Taiwan, Cross-Strait Ties

There have been cases of human rights violations in the R.O.C., such as the 228 Incident and the period of White Terror in the 1950s, Ma said, adding that it is the government's principle to reexamine itself, own up to its mistakes and apologize to the victims.

The government has written laws so that victims and their family members can at least receive compensation, the president said.

Although the loss of lives cannot be compensated with money, legislation or the establishment of national holidays, the government is willing to face history and do what it can to gradually heal the nation's wounds, the president added.

In a Freedom House survey published this year, Taiwan received one of the highest scores in terms of political rights, whereas the island's overall performance was found comparable to that of the U.S., Japan and various European countries, the president said.

Taiwan is concerned about human rights in other countries, but Taiwan cannot refuse other countries' concern over human rights within its jurisdiction, Ma said.

Citing the tragedy of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu's death, Ma said that the government has taken active measures by amending the Code of Court Martial Procedure, turning the jurisdiction of court-martial cases over to civilian courts, marking an important milestone in the R.O.C.'s judicial history.

The president said that the administration aims to transform Taiwan fully into an island of human rights.

One of the important objectives behind the government's efforts to promote human rights is to lessen the gap between the Taiwan Strait in terms of human rights, democracy, freedom and the rule of law, Ma said, adding that it is only by doing so that peaceful development of cross-strait ties can be fully ensured.

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From left, Karen Human Rights Group's Field Director Saw Albert, President Ma Ying-jeou and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng pose for a photograph at the 2013 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award ceremony in Taipei, yesterday. (CNA)

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