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  • President Ma attends 2011 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award ceremony
  • Date
2011/12/10
President Ma attends 2011 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award ceremony. President Ma attends 6th Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award ceremony.
On the morning of December 10, International Human Rights Day, President Ma Ying-jeou attended the ceremony for the presentation of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy's 6th Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award. In presenting this year's award to Boat People SOS of the United States, the president stated that the organization has been singled out this year for its outstanding contributions in promoting democracy and protecting human rights. Among those attending the ceremony were Taiwan Foundation for Democracy Chairman Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Boat People SOS Executive Director Nguyen Dinh Thang, members of the diplomatic corps here, and representatives from various nations.

In an address delivered at the event, President Ma stated that Taiwan successfully carried out a transition to democracy after 38 years of martial law. The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy was established in order to solidify the achievements of Taiwan's democratic transformation, and Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng in 2003 became the organization's first chairman. The foundation began issuing the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award in 2006, and the award has earned recognition from non-governmental agencies throughout the world. President Ma explained that the foundation bestows the award each year on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day. On the one hand, this symbolizes the importance that the ROC attaches to human rights, while at the same time it enables the world to understand that the efforts being made here to protect human rights are in step with the rest of the world.

President Ma furthermore stated that last year's Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award was given to India's Rescue Foundation, while this year's recipient, Boat People SOS, is based in the United States. In introducing the organization, he remarked that Boat People SOS was established in 1980 and over the past 30 years has worked with governments and non-governmental organizations throughout the world in assisting refugees to find homes and make a life in other countries. It has also had considerable success in encouraging countries worldwide to pass laws aimed at preventing human trafficking. Boat People SOS previously helped American Samoa to rescue 250 victims of human trafficking. President Ma said that work in this regard has been extended to other Asia-Pacific nations, which he lauded as extremely admirable.

The president also spoke to those in attendance about the ROC's measures and achievements in cracking down on human trafficking. These include the promulgation in November 2006 of the Action Plan for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons, the establishment in 2007 of the Coordination Meeting on Human Trafficking Prevention, and the January 23, 2009 passage of the Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act. These initiatives have significantly reduced trafficking of individuals from minority groups. Even more important, he said, is that the United States in its 2010 and 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report s listed Taiwan as a Tier 1 country (the highest ranking). Only the ROC and South Korea were listed as Tier 1 countries among the 36 Asian states that were rated in the review. This, the president said, indicates that the United States recognizes efforts made by Taiwan. In addition, related agencies from Thailand and Singapore have dispatched officials here to understand the operation and successes of Taiwan in its human trafficking prevention initiatives.

President Ma stressed that he places heavy emphasis on promoting and protecting human rights. Consequently, on May 14, 2009, in the presence of ambassadors and representatives of other countries to the ROC, he signed the instruments of ratification for two United Nations human rights covenants, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, the two covenants have been incorporated into domestic law, and now apply to all administrative agencies, courts, and the public. The president at that time also ordered the government to act within two years to review all laws and regulations and make any necessary amendments to ensure that they all comply with the two covenants. Furthermore, training of human rights protection seed instructors is being carried out in order to continue to publicize the content of the two covenants. President Ma stated that needed amendments to most domestic laws and regulations have either been adopted or have been drafted and sent to the Legislative Yuan for deliberations. For any legal provisions that contravene the covenants and are not yet amended, the covenants shall take precedence in accordance with the principle that where laws conflict, the more recent one governs.

President Ma also mentioned that in response to a requirement in the two covenants, on December 10 last year the Office of the President founded the Human Rights Consultative Committee, whose foremost mission is to examine human rights policies and annually issue a national human rights report. This year's preliminary report was completed on October 25 and was produced according to an internationally standardized format introduced by the United Nations. Agencies are presently holding public hearings throughout Taiwan regarding the content of the report, and a final report is expected to be issued in February of next year. The president expressed his hope that the document will clarify the progress of the ROC in implementing the two covenants, and will enable the public to understand that the protection of human rights is a fundamental policy of the nation which the government will make every effort to carry out.

President Ma stated since the ROC feels qualified to issue the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award, it should be striving to do even better. The ROC should be seen in the world as a nation that "upholds democracy," "observes the rule of law," and "protects human rights." This is the foundation of a nation, he said, adding that it constitutes an important raison d'etre for the ROC.
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