Ma insincere on rights: groups

2012-04-21 Taipei Times

By Chris Wang and Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporters

HEAR NO PROTEST’:Critics said freedom of the press was deteriorating, people’s voices are stifled and there has been little progress on Aboriginal rights or capital punishment.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) first human rights report, which he released yesterday, is full of empty boasts and obfuscations, opposition legislators said, while local advocacy groups said Ma was not sincere about making human rights improvement a priority.

Ma yesterday released a human rights report based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Taiwan ratified three years ago.

Commenting on the report, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said that freedom of the press in Taiwan has been deteriorating during the Ma administration, with its world ranking falling from 32nd in 2008 to 48th last year.

It has also been more difficult for people to voice their discontent because the Ma administration has delineated a much larger restricted zone for Ma’s second-term inauguration ceremony, slated to be held on May 20, to keep a planned mass rally against Ma farther away from the Presidential Office, Lin said.

“Ma has chosen the way of ‘hear no protest, see no protest’ against the people’s voices,” Lin said.
It is disingenuous for Ma to say that he cares deeply about human rights conditions in China, he added.

Ma has refused to meet with Chinese dissidents, such as Wang Dan (王丹), since taking office in 2008, Lin said.

“Ma has not publicly criticized the Tiananmen Square Massacre since he was elected in 2008. He even praised Beijing for making progress on human rights issues. It’s simply incredible,” Lin said.

Human Rights Covenants Watch convener Kao Yung-cheng (高湧誠) told a press conference yesterday that in Ma’s report, “we only see the government dressing up human rights conditions in the country, instead of trying to touch the core of issues, and make profound changes.”

“The government is not facing some real human rights violations happening in this country,” he added.

Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies Association chairman Oto Micyang, an Amis, said that despite the mention of indigenous rights in the two international human rights covenants and Ma’s own promises, “Aborigines in Taiwan are far from getting autonomy, and I don’t see any concrete actions by the government to work toward that objective.”

Wellington Koo (顧立雄), an attorney who represented the Judicial Reform Foundation at the press conference, said that obtaining testimony through “inappropriate ways,” such as torture or threats, still occurs in Taiwan, and such illegally obtained testimony is still used in court.

Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty executive director Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡) criticized Ma’s “three policy directions” to abolish capital punishment.

“Ma said he would push to revise laws that provide the capital punishment as the only penalty — well, it’s something that was already done back in 2006,” Lin said. “Ma also said the Ministry of Justice would work to revise laws on the death penalty, but the ministry is only preparing to make changes to laws that are rarely used any more, such as the Civil Aviation Act (民用航空法) and the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍刑法) — if Ma is really sincere about taking away the death penalty, he should push for changes to more commonly used laws.”

As for Ma’s third “policy direction” that the death penalty would only be used as a last resort, Lin said that on April 30, 2010, a prisoner on death row was executed while the Council of Grand Justices were still reviewing whether his sentencing was unconstitutional and that nine other people on death row were executed in 2010 and last year after they applied for amnesty from the president, but had not received any response.