On the morning of December 10, President Tsai Ing-wen attended a ceremony for the presentation of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy's (TFD) 2016 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award. In addition to presenting the award to the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), the president praised the TFD for its promotion of democracy and human rights, and called upon them to continue acting as a force for progress in Asia so that the concepts of democracy, freedom, and human rights will take deep root in Asia and even throughout the world.
The following is a translation of President Tsai's remarks:
First, on behalf of the government and people of Taiwan, I would like to congratulate the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances for winning the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award.
The AFAD is a regional human rights federation with member organizations in East Asia and South Asia.
The AFAD's advocacy and lobbying over the years have contributed to passage by the United Nations of the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
In addition, despite political pressures and limited resources, the AFAD has continued to rescue disappeared persons and support their families. The task they have shouldered is extremely difficult and of the utmost importance. I want to take this opportunity to express my deep respect for the AFAD.
The most frequent cause of enforced disappearance is political oppression. Here in Taiwan, in fact, many people were disappeared during our period of authoritarian rule. The Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Research Institute just now performed Periwinkle Blossom, a work which expresses the strong desire for freedom that the people of Taiwan felt during those years.
The music for Periwinkle Blossom was composed by Uyongu Yatauyungana (高一生), a leading light among the indigenous Tsou people of Alishan, while the choreography was done by Tsai Jui-yueh (蔡瑞月), acknowledged as "the mother of modern dance" in Taiwan. Both of these artists were victims of Taiwan's White Terror. Uyongu Yatauyungana was executed in the prime of life for his active participation in public affairs in his home town.
Tsai Jui-yueh, meanwhile, saw her husband sent into exile after the February 28 Incident in 1947, and soon thereafter she herself was thrown into prison for three years. After leaving prison, she still had to report her daily whereabouts to the authorities for another decade or two.
During those dark years, a number of organizations similar to the AFAD assisted the people of Taiwan as we moved forward one step at a time to break free of our authoritarian restraints.
In the past, when the people of Taiwan were struggling for freedom and human rights, the international community gave us much encouragement and support. Now that we have become a normal democratic country, we are willing to share our experience and resources with the international community, and especially with regions and peoples for whom the struggle continues.
We are willing to work more closely with the AFAD, and to contribute more to the fight against enforced disappearances in Asia and around the world. We are also willing to work via the TFD to engage in more exchanges and dialogues with global civil society on issues pertaining to freedom, democracy, and human rights.
The TFD is the first national-level foundation in Asia dedicated to the support of democracy. Under the leadership of Chairman Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), the TFD spares no effort in advocating for democracy and engaging in human rights work, and for its unstinting efforts it deserves the highest praise.
I hope that the TFD can act as a force for progress in Asia so that the concepts of democracy, freedom, and human rights will take deep root in Asia and even throughout the world.
Let us all join forces and work together!
Among those in attendance at the event were Su Jia-chyuan (Legislative Yuan President and TFD Chairman), Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso (AFAD Secretary-General), Sima Samar (Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and winner of the 2008 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award), Nicholas Bequelin (East Asia Director at Amnesty International), and the ambassadors and representatives of numerous countries stationed in Taiwan.