TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Describing Taiwan as a thriving and successful democracy, Russian democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza said Friday that there is no better place than Taiwan to hold the first Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) in Asia.
A platform for activists and leaders from industries to give talks and exchange ideas about promoting human rights, freedom, and democracy, OFF will open its satellite event on Saturday in Taipei after its debut 10 years ago.
Dedicated to promoting democratic values and fair elections in Russia, Kara-Murza said at a press conference on Friday that in terms of holding the first OFF in Asia, there is no better place than Taiwan, a country that has a “thriving and successful democracy.”
Kara-Murza said the democratization of Taiwan has proven that democracy is not just a western concept and that it can take roots in Asia. “Taiwan has managed to travel a remarkable journey to [become] a full-fledged constitutional democracy.”
Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), which organizes the event, added the reason why the forum will be held in Taipei is not just because Taiwan is a beacon of democracy, but also because it is a world leader in technology.
The forum also features a technology lab where a couple of speakers will talk about how technology can help improve democratic values and human rights conditions in different societies.
Bill Tai (戴偉平), a second-generation U.S. immigrant from Taiwan and a Silicon-Valley-based venture capitalist, said the power of technology lies in the fact that it can accelerate everything and make it scale, either for good or for bad.
Facebook had been considered a fairly innocent and fun application for many years until it was exposed as a vehicle to influence public opinion, said Tai. “Democracy is often slow to respond, but if the awareness is there and you get the critical mass, then you see a turning point.”
As an ardent dissident who has criticized the decade-long dictatorship of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Mu Sochua urged people to “speak up” and “speak out” against any nations or individuals that attempt to demolish democracy, freedom, and human rights, even if it is to stand up against powerful countries such as China.
Now an exiled politician with an arrest warrant waiting at home, Sochua said, “Cambodia is about four hours by plane from Taiwan. It’s not far. But yet, very far for me, because I can’t go home.”
A total of 10 speakers from such fields as social movements, business, technology, government, philanthropy, media, academia, and arts will give talks at OFF in Taiwan on Saturday, with live-streaming available on the website.
In addition to talks, the event will also include networking activities, interactive exhibits, and music performances, according to HRF, a New York-based non-profit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.