EU picks Taiwanese LGBTI activist icon as human rights defender

Chi Chia-wei has fought for LGBT rights in Taiwan for over 30 years

Civil rights activist Chi Chia-wei (Photo courtesy of the General Association of Chinese Culture)

Civil rights activist Chi Chia-wei (Photo courtesy of the General Association of Chinese Culture)

TAIPEI (CNA) — A Taiwanese icon fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is one of the human rights defenders featured in a European Union campaign aimed at raising awareness of the protection of human rights.

"You can also join me with your actions to speak out for human rights," the 60-year-old Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) said in a video released Wednesday in Brussels as part of the "Human Rights Defenders" campaign.

The campaign highlights the story of 13 human rights defenders, a selection of candidates recommended by the EU's diplomatic missions around the world, with each in a video posted online along with the hashtags #standup4humanrights, #EU4humanrights.

"We want to showcase (Chi's story) because Taiwan is a frontrunner in this area here in Asia," Madeleine Majorenko, head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO), the EU's representative office in Taiwan, said in a recent interview.

Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in May 2017 that the Civil Code provisions that do not allow same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and asked the government to amend relevant laws within two years of the ruling to protect gay couples' rights.

The ruling came in response to a petition brought by Chi in 2013 to review the laws.

Chi filed his first request for a constitutional review of the laws in 2000 after he made multiple attempts over the years to seek legal recognition of same-sex marriage, but that application never went through a review by the Council of Grand Justices.

"This time (The 2013 request), we finally got a very good result," Chi said in the short film about his 40-year journey as an LGBTI icon.

"I have always believed that, someday, a wise person will make the right decision. Therefore I will continue trying to improve LGBTI rights," Chi said.

Angelica Choc of the Indigenous Maya Q'eqchi' in Guatemala, who is fighting against human rights abuses committed by a Canadian mining company at the Central American country's largest nickel mine, is also featured in the project, co-launched by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations.

Also in the company included human rights activists in Uganda, Colombia, Angola, Paraguay, Mexico, Lebanon, Australia, Algeria, America, Thailand and Serbia.

"We are very happy that Chi is selected because lots of countries and EU delegations all over the world suggest that they should be involved," Majorenko said.

The EU launched the campaign to mark the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders by the U.N., according to Majorenko.

Human rights defenders often put their safety, health and even lives at risk so people can live in a society where human rights are defended, "but most people do not appreciate how dangerous this can be," Majorenko said.

"It's very important to remember what kind of sacrifices they have made in places where people can be killed for their fight for human rights," she said.

In Taiwan, the EETO is scheduled to show the films on its Facebook page in the runup to International Human Rights day on Dec. 10.