Taiwan president presents Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award to Australian NGO

Tsai Ing-wen also commemorated 40th anniversary of Formosa Incident, described it as 'a turning point' in Taiwan's democratization

Tsai Ing-wen and Patrick Earle.

Tsai Ing-wen and Patrick Earle. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Speaking at a human rights award ceremony on Tuesday morning (Dec. 10), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries sharing similar values with Taiwan to continue defending and promoting democracy as people from many parts of the world are being deprived of their freedom and human rights.

The president presented the 2019 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award to the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP), a Sydney-based non-government organization that has provided education in human rights advocacy since being founded by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning former president of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, and Australian scholar Garth Nettheim in 1989.

The award serves as one of Taiwan’s contributions to the world's democracy and human rights initiatives, said Tsai. Referring to the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators known as the Formosa Incident, the anniversary of which coincides with Human Rights Day, the president acknowledged that the event was a turning point for the democratization of Taiwan.

Pro-democracy activists demonstrated exceptional courage four decades ago in defiance of the oppression of the authoritarian government, remarked Tsai. Today, people on the island enjoy democracy and freedom as simply as they do breathing air, she added, going on to assert that it is “our responsibility to safeguard democracy and our mission to promote democracy.”

Legislative Yuan Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), who chairs the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), the Taipei-based non-profit organization that established the award, commended the DTP for having trained more than 3,000 human rights advocates from 60 countries across the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and North Africa over the past 30 years. Its contributions have had a monumental influence on promoting democratic values throughout the world, he said.

Su noted that in the face of infiltration by the authoritarian Chinese government, Taiwan could be an example for countries and places that are still in the process of pursuing democracy. “Democracy will eventually prevail,” proclaimed Su, encouraging people to maintain faith.

Patrick Earle, executive director of the Diplomacy Training Program, described receiving the award as being “special beyond words” since the organization celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. The DTP recognizes that individuals, whatever their role, have the potential to make a difference on human rights issues and that change occurs when people work together, Earle said.

Earle acknowledged that even though improvements in human rights have been seen in Asia over the years, there have also been setbacks in the region. He pledged that the organization would continue protecting human rights defenders, fostering societies with a strong human rights culture, and building movements to traverse borders and generations alike.

The Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award was established by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy in 2006 to encourage individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to promoting democracy and protecting human rights in Asia through peaceful means. During the ceremony, Tsai also presented the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman, with the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon in recognition of his many contributions to promoting democracy in the region.