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Human Rights in Taiwan and China Today (1): Speech by Hon. David Kilgour

Posted by Author on December 15, 2008

Paper prepared by Hon. David Kilgour, J.D. for An International Forum on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Garden Villa Hotel, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, 11 December, 2008 –


December 10 marks the tenth anniversary of the ground-breaking of the Human Rights Monument on Green Island in Taiwan. It serves as a reminder of your country’s history of political persecution and human rights abuses between from the late 1940s through the end of the 1980s. A total of 20,000 to 30,000 political prisoners of conscience, including author Bo Yang and many of the defendants in the Kaohsiung Incident, were imprisoned on the Taiwanese version of the South Africa’s Robben Island.

Bo Yang, who passed away this year, was imprisoned on the island in 1969 after he translated a “Popeye” comic from English to Chinese. He was accused of making fun of your late president Chiang Kai-shek, and served a ten-year sentence for “undermining the affection between the people and the government.” With many intellectuals, Bo Yang sought to expose the totalitarian nature of governance then on both sides of the Strait of Taiwan.

December 10th is also the 29th anniversary of the notorious Kaohsiung Incident of December 1979. Much has been written about its mindless and brutal violence against so many residents of this city, but I believe the most comprehensive account is found at It includes a link to “The Kaohsiung Tapes”, which contains the full text of what was said during the night of December 10th. The incident proved a major turning point in Taiwan’s transition to democracy, in particular since many of the defendants and lawyers became prominent leaders in a rule-of-law and democratic Taiwan.

As you all know, there has still been no closure on the deaths of Assemblyman Lin Yi-hsiung’s mother and two daughters, who, as related in the Kaohsiung Tapes, were killed in their home while Mr. Lin was held in detention. Many continue to ask why the offenders have not been found and charged.


The past three decades have seen Taiwan emerge as a beacon of hope for rule-of-law and democratic development in much of Asia. However, turning to recent developments, many Taiwanese and friends of Taiwan abroad are saying that there has been a dramatic deterioration in the rule-of-law, human dignity and democratic practices in recent months. This phenomenon can be divided into two parts:

1. The disproportionate police response during the visit of China’s envoy Chen Yun-lin, which led to many citizens, including a number of your legislators, being hospitalized with a broken arm, concussions and other injuries. We also wonder why police prevented people from waving the national flag (and in many cases even confiscating them), while people wearing T-shirts with “I love Taiwan” were told to remove the T-shirts.  What happened to the principle of freedom of expression?

In particular I should like to refer to the “Wild Strawberry” student movement, which started on November 6th in response to excessive use of force by the police, resulting in large numbers of civilian injuries. The group also protested the severe infringement on freedoms of speech during the events surrounding Chen Yun-lin’s visit. The students continue to demand quite reasonably a revision of the Parade and Assembly Law.

2. Many are also concerned about the arrests and “preventive detention” of former members of the DPP government. This led twenty-two international scholars and writers to issue an open statement on November 4th, which can be accessed at …… (to be cont’d)


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One Response to “Human Rights in Taiwan and China Today (1): Speech by Hon. David Kilgour”

  1. I fear the same is coming here to the US as well. Best wishes and peace, Jim

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