President Ma Ying-jeou on the afternoon of January 22 attended the 2011 World Freedom Day Celebration and the annual General Conference of the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD) and the Asian Pacific League for Freedom and Democracy (APLFD). The president, on behalf of the government and people of the ROC, welcomed the attending guests to Taipei to bear witness to the thriving development of the universal values of freedom, democracy, and human rights throughout the world.
In remarks to the gathering, the president noted that this year is the centenary of the ROC and to mark this occasion the WLFD has expanded the scale of the World Freedom Day Celebration and the General Conference of the WLFD and the APLFD, with over 160 guests from 89 countries and territories invited to this year's events. President Ma mentioned that the ROC's founding father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founded Asia's first free and democratic republic, and his Three Principles of the People, the founding guidelines of the nation, have steered the course of the ROC since its establishment. The ideals of freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law have been realized in Taiwan, a nation that demonstrates how starkly freedom and democracy stand in contrast to totalitarian dictatorship.
The president commented that in 1954 during the Korean War, some 14,000 Chinese Communist troops decided to defect to freedom. Under the arrangement of the United Nations and the ROC government, these troops arrived in Keelung on January 23, 1954. It was a major event, and the government subsequently designated January 23 as Freedom Day in commemoration. He furthermore indicated that the efforts of the World Anti-Communist League, as the WLFD was then called, brought together peace-loving individuals from throughout the world, gradually enabling the philosophies of freedom and democracy to expand around the globe.
President Ma stated that the ROC thereafter gradually moved forward along the road towards freedom and democracy. Local self-government came first, followed eventually by the lifting of both martial law and the ban on establishment of new political parties, election of a new parliament, and finally the direct election of the president. The ROC has seen peaceful transfer of political power and it is now a fully democratic nation, he said, adding that nearly three years ago when he was elected president, then US President George W. Bush sent a congratulatory message in which he described Taiwan as "a beacon of democracy to Asia and the world." This, President Ma explained, showed that Taiwan's democracy had won the respect of the world.
The president remarked that over the past two-plus years, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have embarked on a new era of peaceful development under the principle of "ending conflict by means of reconciliation, and shifting from confrontation to negotiation." He noted that tensions remain unabated on the Korean peninsula more than 60 years after the Korean War, which makes cross-strait peace all the more important to regional security and stability, and the ROC's efforts in this regard have been recognized by the world. Recently, for instance, the leaders of the United States and mainland China during talks and in a joint statement expressed their support for cross-strait interaction and contact, and especially the signing of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, and called for broader cross-strait interaction.
President Ma said he believes that Taiwan is an ideal provider of humanitarian aid. After the major earthquake that struck Haiti last year, for example, a rescue and relief team from Taiwan was on the ground there shortly after the disaster, and donations of material aid and cash from the ROC government and the private sectors have topped US$20 million. Taiwan is assisting Haiti in the reconstruction of public health and medical facilities, homes to settle disaster victims, and vocational training centers. Meanwhile, we have also instituted the Light for Africa project for diplomatic allies in Africa, helping to address the problem of insufficient electricity in those countries and enabling students to study at night, the president explained. The ROC, he remarked, is also promoting the “360 Project” in Nauru to help that nation become self-sufficient in six agricultural and livestock products within three years. This will help resolve dietary imbalances there, he said.
President Ma stated that global warming is resulting in extreme weather and that Taiwan has been listed as one of the places in the world most prone to natural disasters. He declared Taiwan's desire to maintain close contact with members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in order to further protect the wellbeing and safety of the people of Taiwan. At the same time, Taiwan has one of the busiest air corridors in East Asia, and so hopes to join the International Civil Aviation Organization to jointly promote aviation safety.
President Ma stressed that as a member of the international community, the ROC is determined to be a peacemaker, a provider of humanitarian aid, a promoter of cultural ties, and a creator of new technologies and business opportunities. At the same time, the nation hopes to continue to interact and maintain dialogue with mainland China, using its wisdom to settle disputes and ensure peace in East Asia. President Ma expressed his desire to see even more devotees of freedom and democracy among the 134 WLFD chapters throughout the world join hands in working to create a better world.