British MP in Taiwan to lobby against death penalty

Labour MP Keir Starmer will seek to persuade top administration officials to reinstate a moratorium on capital punishment

Labour MP Keir Starmer

Labour MP Keir Starmer (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – British Labour politician Keir Starmer will be in Taiwan this week to lobby the Taiwanese government to consider a renewed moratorium against the death penalty, and its future abolition.

According to reports, the Labour Party, Member of Parliament is making the trip to Taiwan to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to “international legal standards” in the wake of the Brexit referendum and in the midst of negotiations with the EU.

On the four day trip, Starmer is set to meet with Vice-President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥), and other senior judiciary officials.

Starmer was reportedly the former director of the Death Penalty Project, a campaign to abolish the death penalty across the globe. He is supported on his trip by the British Foreign Office.

The British Foreign Office was quoted by a report in The Guardian, “It is a longstanding policy of the UK government to oppose the death penalty, in all circumstances, as a matter of principle.”

Taiwan had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty since the Tsai administration took power in 2016. However, it was abrogated on Aug. 31 with the execution of Lee Hung-chi, a man who was convicted for the murder of his ex-wife and his eldest daughter.

The death penalty in Taiwan remains a topic of heated political debate in Taiwan. DPP officials have previously stated that the country would seek to eventually abolish capitol punishment.

The Guardian report quotes Starmer describing the objectives of his trip to Taiwan:

“The most important thing is to ensure that the moratorium stays in place. One of the most important points to emphasize after the referendum is the UK’s continued commitment to international law … across the world. For me personally, and the country, compliance with international human rights obligations has always been central and I have devoted much of my career to that cause ... Going to Taiwan is part of maintaining the UK’s commitment to international human rights.”

While opponents of the death penalty are likely happy to see the UK MP visit to advocate for a cause that is often touted as an important human rights issue, proponents of capital punishment in Taiwan may take umbrage at a foreign political leader criticizing the country’s judicial system ahead of local elections in November.

A rash of brutal murders over the past two years, some carried out against random victims, has for many people reinforced the conviction that the death penalty should be kept in place for the worst of criminals who present a significant danger to society.