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President Ma attends gathering for overseas compatriots attending National Day festivities

President Ma Ying-jeou on October 9 attended a gathering arranged for overseas compatriots who have returned to Taiwan to attend the 2010 National Day festivities. The president welcomed the guests back to Taiwan for the nation's birthday celebrations, and in remarks to the gathering urged mainland Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo, who was recently awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Statistics tallied by the Executive Yuan's Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission indicate that some 6,500 overseas compatriots returned to Taiwan this year to take part in the festivities. While the nation has encountered a number of obstacles and challenges over the years, the president noted that overseas compatriots have always provided strong support, and added that he is deeply moved by their patriotism.

The president said that since the ROC government moved to Taiwan over 60 years ago, Taiwan society has found new ways of doing things in order to keep up with the times. What has taken hold here is a Chinese culture with Taiwan characteristics, for which reason the government is planning to establish Taiwan academies overseas with the hope of boosting Taiwan's participation in the international community. The Taiwan academies can contribute toward the achievement of that goal by teaching Chinese language, familiarizing foreign audiences with Taiwan's diverse culture, and promoting Sinology and Taiwan studies.

President Ma commented that around 40 million people throughout the world currently use orthodox Chinese characters, with the bulk of these people in Taiwan. Taiwan, he said, is vitally important as a repository of orthodox Chinese characters. When he urged mainland China earlier last year to encourage its people to write in simplified Chinese characters while maintaining a reading knowledge of orthodox forms, he was attempting to further preserve and promote the use of orthodox characters so that the next generation will be able to understand the cultural heritage of their ancestors.

President Ma specially mentioned the concept of benevolent rule, expressing his belief that Confucian culture stresses liberality, a concept with an important bearing upon cross-strait relations. If the two sides can handle their relations with liberality and wisdom, he said he is confident that true harmony can be achieved.

With respect to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to mainland Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, President Ma stressed that the global Chinese community is happy for Liu, and his selection demonstrates the high expectations that people have toward mainland China. People hope that mainland Chinese authorities will treat its dissidents with greater leniency, he said, and call for Liu's release from prison at an early date.

President Ma explained that his call for Liu's release is based on four lines of reasoning. First, if mainland China aspires to be more than just big and powerful, it must exercise benevolence in foreign affairs. Internally, mainland China should be liberal toward its people and put Chinese culture into practice. Freedom of speech is, after all, an important foundation of modern society. Second, mainland China in the previous century signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and President Ma also signed the instruments of ratification of these two international covenants in May of last year and instructed his government to make sure that all domestic law accords with the covenants. Both sides of the Taiwan Strait have signed the two international human rights covenants, he noted, and can now begin competing for the honor of having the better human rights record. Third, President Ma said that the leaders of mainland China these days frequently stress political reform and democratic principles, which is a matter of great historical significance to the Chinese people. The president expressed the hope that mainland China can truly translate its words into action. Lastly, the president commented that since taking office he has actively sought to improve cross-strait relations, and that these efforts have yielded considerable results, including the resumption of cross-strait negotiations, the commencement of direct cross-strait flights, and the signing of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. These developments have significantly closed the distance between the two sides both literally (in terms of travel time) and figuratively (in terms of economic and trade relations), and he hopes that the gap between the two in terms of freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law can also be narrowed.

President Ma stressed that the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are ethnic Chinese with a common bloodline, history, and culture. Enhanced interaction between the two sides will enable us to find common ground while respecting differences. Chinese culture, he said, will help us find a way to resolve the contention between the two sides. President Ma explained that starting next year students from mainland China will be allowed to study in Taiwan. He said he is confident that the closer interaction and contact will enable the youth from both sides to develop a road towards peace.

Lastly, President Ma reiterated the six goals he mentioned in the speech marking the second anniversary of his inauguration, namely strengthening the country through innovation, reviving the country by promoting culture, saving the country through environmental protection, stabilizing the country by adhering to the constitution, securing the country by providing social services, and protecting the country by promoting peace. He also said he hopes that overseas and local compatriots will work hand in hand to create a "golden decade" that will lay a strong foundation for the ROC's second century.

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