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President Tsai attends Taiwan Human Rights "Upgrade" event
President Tsai attends Taiwan Human Rights "Upgrade" event

On the morning of December 10, Human Rights Day, President Tsai Ing-wen attended the Taiwan Human Rights "Upgrade" event. The president praised the achievements of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in raising awareness of human rights in all government agencies and spurring the implementation of human rights values. She also expressed hope that through international collaboration, we can share Taiwan's commitment to human rights with the world, and continue to harmonize our human rights work with global standards.

After arriving at the event, President Tsai visited the special exhibition for Human Rights Day accompanied by Control Yuan President Chen Chu (陳菊), and learned how to express "Upgrading human rights in Taiwan once again" using sign language at the physical disability simulation area. After the event began, President Tsai enjoyed a performance by Eye Music with the other guests.

A translation of the president's remarks follows:

I am honored to be invited here on Human Rights Day to witness the achievements of the Control Yuan's NHRC since it began operations in August this year. When I arrived here today, the first thing I did was to visit the special exhibition for Human Rights Day to look back on the origins of human rights concepts, and the difficulties Taiwan faced in the pursuit of democracy and development of human rights.

The exhibition gives a concise picture of a long process. But it's clear that each page in the history of human rights development was written by our democratic forbearers, who paid the price every step of the way. So today, on Human Rights Day, we should all join in commemorating their contributions. The path of human rights has no end. In Taiwan today, change is still happening.

In August this year the NHRC began formal operations, finally giving Taiwan an independent human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles. Over the past few months, the NHRC has continuously established new milestones in protecting human rights. Under Control Yuan President Chen's leadership, the NHRC has investigated human rights violations according to the law and prepared human rights reports, including a soon-to-be released independent assessment on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The NHRC is also actively promoting cooperation among all government agencies on human rights issues to assist them in promoting human rights education. One example is the human rights education materials at the Examination Yuan's National Academy of Civil Service, some of which are based on cases provided by the Control Yuan. These materials will be used for new civil servants who pass this year’s Junior and Senior Examinations. Enhancing the human rights knowledge of our civil service colleagues is the only way government agencies can make continuous progress, and human rights ideals can take root and thrive.

I also want to emphasize that human rights are fundamental, priority values, whether in promoting policy reform or in the daily work of individual civil servants like teachers, police officers, or judicial officials. I am delighted to see that the Executive Yuan's Directorate-General of Personnel Administration, the Ministry of Justice's Academy for the Judiciary, and the Ministry of Education's National Academy for Educational Research are all preparing to collaborate with the NHRC to introduce human rights education plans. 

Human rights education also helps improve the quality of the judicial system and carry out judicial reform. The NHRC will also cooperate with the Judicial Yuan, as a "friend of the court," and attend oral arguments at the Constitutional Court to provide a human rights perspective. The Executive Yuan is also considering setting up a human rights department responsible for planning and promoting interdepartmental human rights work. These proactive measures show that establishing the NHRC will raise awareness of human rights in all government agencies, and spur the implementation of human rights values.

Human rights are also a good way for Taiwan to connect with the world and initiate more international cooperation. In just a few short months, the NHRC held a virtual meeting with the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions Secretariat to plan a large-scale international forum once the pandemic has subsided, inviting international human rights experts and scholars to Taiwan to discuss important human rights issues.

Through international collaboration, we can share Taiwan's commitment to human rights with the world, and continue to harmonize our human rights work with global standards. I hope that in the future, we can further strengthen our international exchanges and cooperation. I am confident that by learning about and sharing our experiences in human rights work, Taiwan can gain even more new perspectives and inspiration.

Taiwan has made a peaceful transition from authoritarianism and experienced several transfers of power between political parties. And today, we have a chance to become a model of democracy in Asia by defending democracy, freedom and human rights. None of this is easy. I want to thank Control Yuan President Chen, its members, and all of our colleagues at the Control Yuan for your hard work. I also want to thank our civil society partners for your enduring advocacy and encouragement, and our legislators for your assistance in enacting laws. Today we have looked back on our achievements, so let's continue working together to achieve even more. 

Following her remarks, President Tsai and Control Yuan President Chen joined the guests on hand to inaugurate the new NHRC logo, highlighting the people of Taiwan's commitment to and pursuit of freedom, equality, democracy, justice, and diversity. 

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