Promoting human rights could drive country's diplomacy: Taiwan President

Taiwan's National Human Rights Museum was inaugurated on May 17 and said to be the first such museum in Asia


President Tsai Ing-wen (centre-left) and Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (centre-right) attended the inauguration of the National Human Rights Muse (By Taiwan News)

GREEN ISLAND (Taiwan News) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Thursday that the establishment of a national-level human rights museum could drive Taiwan's diplomatic relations with other countries.

After nearly seven years of preparation, the National Human Rights Museum was inaugurated at one of its two sites, the Green Island White Terror Memorial Park, with almost 80 former political prisoners during the authoritarian regime of the Martial Law era invited to witness the transformation of a former political prison into a museum dedicated to promoting human rights.

Considering the implementation of transitional justice an important policy for her administration, President Tsai arrived on Green Island, a small outer island southeast of Taitung County, on Thursday morning for the inauguration. Secretary-General to the Presidential Office Chen Chu (陳菊), who was once prosecuted for taking part in pro-democratic activities in the early 1980s, also attended the event.

Speaking in front of former political prisoners and their family, President Tsai said she hoped the human rights museum “can bring about international exchanges” with similar museums or institutes around the globe so that it “will drive diplomacy” through the work of transitional justice and promotion on human rights in Taiwan.

“We will share with the world the experience of developing democracy and upholding human rights in Taiwan” though the establishment and practices of the National Human Rights Museum, said President Tsai, assuring the museum is a proof that Taiwan is a country that could face up to its turbulent history with courage.

The president also said the museum should not only serve to educate the general public but also government officials on the values of human rights, so that violation of human rights or oppression of individuals' freedom would not take place again under the current or future governments. 

Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said the inauguration of the National Human Rights Museum was set on May 17 so as to commemorate the arrival of the first group of political prisoners on Green Island exactly 67 years ago who were henceforth deprived of freedom. “Today marks a milestone for the country to carry out works of transitional justice and reinforce the values of democracy,” said Cheng.

Cheng said, “Taiwan is the first country in Asia to establish a national-level museum dedicated to promoting human rights on a site where gross violations of human rights occurred.” It showed that “we have the courage to confront and reflect upon history” regardless of people’s political orientations or ethnicities, added Cheng.

According to the Ministry of Culture, the National Human Rights Museum will work with the Transitional Justice Promotion Committee in a series of tasks, including preserving sites related to political prosecution under the authoritarian regime of the Martial Law era. It will also be committed to uncovering political documents and promoting human rights education. 

The Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park, once a prison and concentration camp for political prisoners, was opened to the public in 2011. After the National Human Rights Museum Organization Act passed the legislature in 2017, the Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park was designated as the Green Island White Terror Memorial Park and became part of the National Human Rights Museum system, along with the Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park.