TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan bore witness to two important events over the past few days regarding religious freedom.
The “Civil Society Dialogue on Securing Religious Freedom in the Indo-Pacific Region," hosted by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), took place between Monday and Tuesday. A march through Taipei commemorating 60 years since the 310 Tibetan Uprising occurred on Sunday.
Both of these events have stirred society to reflect on the long road Taiwan walked to earning freedom, democracy and human rights. Reflection should encourage Taiwan to put more effort into protecting these values.
AIT Director Brent Christensen said during Monday’s dialogue that religious freedom is among one of many common values the U.S. and Taiwan share. The event received support from both Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Congress International Religious Freedom Caucus.
The Tibetan Uprising 60th anniversary march commemorated the day Tibet revolted against oppressive Chinese occupation, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands.
Tibetan authorities in 1951 were forced by China into signing a “17 Point Agreement,” which Beijing proclaimed would safeguard the unique culture, language, and religious practices of the Tibetan people from destruction. It also affirmed the Dalai Lama could retain his position as the country’s foremost spiritual leader.
Ten years later, however, an excess of 1.2 million people had died at the hands of the Chinese government, and the Dalai Lama fled to India.
Taiwan should look to both Tibet and Hong Kong as an example of how a “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement would work out. While Hong Kong citizens with untarnished report cards are flocking to Canada, Australia and Taiwan among other democratic nations, those accused of harboring anti-China sentiments are prevented from leaving.
A press conference was held March 7 prior to the Tibetan Uprising commemorative march. Chair of the Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan Tashi Tsering implored Taiwan to be careful in any negotiations with China. Tashi holds Taiwanese citizenship and said he does not want to become a refugee for the second time.
Democratic Progressive Party secretary Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉) said a cross-strait “peace agreement” would likely bring a massacre and severe oppression rather than peace. He additionally welcomed the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan.
The fourteenth Dalai Lama has visited Taiwan three times: in 1997, 2001 and 2009. His 2009 visit came just after Typhoon Morakot had ravaged southern Taiwan, leaving over 700 dead or missing. He was invited to consultations on disaster relief and to give his blessings to the victims and the land.
A petition has recently surfaced, promoted by groups involved in organizing Sunday’s march, that calls for the Dalai Lama to be invited back to Taiwan.
We urge Tsai Ing-wen to extend an invitation to the Dalai Lama to return to Taiwan, and fully cooperate with all necessary diplomatic and security divisions to make it happen. This action would truly exhibit the government’s respect for the values of freedom, democracy and human rights. These three things are universal values and there is no room for ambiguity between them.
Translation by Ryan Drillsma