Taiwan People’s News
Translated and edited by: China Aid
■ The general election in Taiwan on January 16 has a meaning of “a new lease of life” and really brings a great deal of change. Leaders of many countries view Taiwan in a new light. They, in addition to having deep feelings regarding Taiwan’s political innovation due to the entire population’s drive, still maintain that Taiwan’s future will, in this area, give rise to a “lighthouse effect.” From February 18–20, three consecutive days, the first meeting of Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum after its founding was held in the Sunrise Country Club in Yangmei, Taoyuan. It is the most representative [aspect] of this new atmosphere.
The conference was collaboratively initiated by the American [organization] China Aid Association, Freedom House, the Heritage Foundation, the Lantos Foundation and Taiwan Association for China Human Rights. The purpose of this forum is to make known that different believers can respect each other and mutually collaborate, striving for the world’s peace and freedom. Religious freedom is the first freedom. This phrase was the leading principle emphasized by this conference. Human society has come to today’s crossroads; the problem of unstable hearts has appeared everywhere. Many wars are due to different believers being unable to tolerate each other, which still wreak havoc to this day. Much oppression and persecution is also due to those in power who can’t tolerate people who have different beliefs within their territory. Such persecution still occurs in each corner of the world every day.
This is an international conference of high universal value. It can be held in Taiwan, which represents that Taiwan has already obtained international recognition in the area of democratic freedom and human rights and rule of law. Over the past two years, in the course of preparation, there really were considerations given to the change that the outcome of Taiwan’s general election [would instigate], due to Taiwan’s local political party being in office in addition to the train of thought that elected Chairman Tsai Ing-wen as president. All [of these things] were thought about during the work units’ proposal of this conference. Yet, under the [current] circumstances of the election’s results having already been made clear, there was significance in Taiwan being proclaimed a “Star of Freedom” because the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum took the initiative to appear.
The invited international figures include politicians, religious and civil society organizations, up to 100 people, from 26 countries. Besides all Asian countries being represented, there were also members of Congress and international religious leaders from the European Union, Scandinavian [countries] (Norway, Sweden), Israel, Italy, Indonesia, Lithuania, Pakistan and other countries. The pope also sent representatives to participate in the conference. The U.S. State Department Religious Affairs Committee director and the people in charge of well-known NGOs [such as] the Lantos Foundation, the Heritage and Freedom House all personally attend the forum, [making it] an unprecedented grand occasion.
Additionally, at this conference, the representatives from all countries gave reports on the current situation of religious freedom in all regions, particularly the countries with the most serious persecution, [such as] China, the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries, and requested more future rescue operations and requested that aid be provided to religious refugees. China is particularly [guilty] of serious religious persecution, especially oppression to Christians, which is intensifying. In Zhejiang province alone, in the past two years, more than 2,000 churches or crosses were demolished by the CPC. Participants in the conference all expressed concern regarding the situation of refugees, and all are asking whether Taiwan can do some rescue work.
One of the most important tasks of the new Parliament is to pass the “refugee law.” All of the international public figures who participated in the conference inquired [as to whether] it is possible for Taiwan to pass this rescue law within this year, in order to save [people] from suffering bitter hardship, especially [in regards to] the “Fishball Revolution” that happened earlier this month in Hong Kong and caused Hong Kong’s human rights situation to sink into a deeper crisis. The United States delegation also actively wanted to find out whether or not the “Refugee Law,” which Taiwan might pass, would be able to align with international [standards]. Almost all representatives of all countries agree that if Taiwan passes the “Refugee Law”, they will provide assistance, allowing the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to come to Taiwan to set up an office for the high commissioner. Concerning this point, the friends who participated in the conference are very seriously thinking about how they should allow this important humanitarian and human rights event, blossom and bear fruit in Taiwan in the future.
[As far as] speaking about human rights and freedom [is concerned], sitting is inferior to getting up and moving to genuinely go and save people. “Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum” is a think tank of action, not a public relations organization that meets but doesn’t decide, or decides but takes no action. Rather, it is an organization that shares common experiences, paying particular attention to [putting decisions] into practice. This is the essence of the “Beginning of all the firepower” for Taiwan, and is the international “first light” after Taiwan’s rebirth.