TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwanese authorities and the European Union (EU) emphasized the importance of working together to promote human rights in the Asia Pacific, which has seen a growing tendency to fall into the grip of regimes ignoring human rights and diminishing press freedom.
The Forum on 30 years of EU-TW Relations: Review and Prospect was held on Wednesday morning and joined by representatives of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs, as well as EU and the European Parliament.
Apart from trade and investment which concerns business stakeholders and government officials the most, another topic was brought up repeatedly during the forum — the human rights issue.
“We now need to mobilize the voices in favor of human rights and democracy,” said Madeleine Majorenko, head of the European Economic and Trade Office, acknowledging the fact that the values of democracy and human rights are under much pressure at the moment.
“EU is speaking out, and Taiwan needs to speak out also,” said Majorenko.
Majorenko also said it was why her office had been making efforts to work with Taiwan on the promotion of human rights, mentioning particularly the Human Rights Consultations held in March for the first time in Taipei.
Even though Taiwan is sometimes considered a beacon of democracy in the Asia-Pacific region and was ranked top in Asia for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April, the country, as the earlier consultation pointed out, still faces challenges of improving workers’ rights and abolishing capital punishment.
Asked about what the Taiwan-EU cooperation could do to better protect human rights and press freedom in the region, especially when the governments of many Asian countries, including China, the Philippines, Cambodia, have been accused of constantly prosecuting dissidents and assaulting journalists, Neena Gill, member of the European Parliament, said countries need to understand that “by promoting human rights, you don’t necessarily lose the authority of the country.”
“It is important to change the thinking in the entire region,” said Gill, adding that if there was a general feeling that human rights should be respected and protected, other countries in the region might likely follow steps.
Gill also mentioned that even though EU had been calling for the protection of human rights, Taiwan, as a member in the region, could have greater influence in neighboring countries.
Some people might question that if you were not from the region, you would not understand how the region operated, whereas if somebody within that region could showcase how to uphold human rights, it would have more impact on the region, added Gill.