I am pleased to report that our “Ensuring Free and Fair Elections: Taiwan 2012” Capitol Hill conference was a smashing success. Four senior members of Congress joined the Foundation, and our distinguished panel of guests, to vigorously articulate the importance of Taiwan’s democracy and the rights of her citizens. (Agenda and Bios)
Below is an overview of today’s highlights from members of Congress:
• Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) kicked the morning off in high gear by calling for full membership for Taiwan in the UN and the WHO and reiterating his support for a “One Taiwan, One China, One Tibet” policy. Brown spoke about the importance of self-determination and vowed to protect the people of Taiwan’s right to choose their own leaders. The Senator referenced his recent letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the Taiwan election quoting “it is critical that our government continue to refrain from endorsing a particular political candidate or party.”
• Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, assured the audience that the United States will respect the choice the Taiwanese people make next month and will continue to support them, no matter who is elected. He also emphasized that the United States fully supports the Taiwanese people’s right to directly choose their leaders, “free from coercion and carried out in a fair and transparent manner.” Berman noted that “there is no role in a democratic society for corrupt practices or political violence aimed at disrupting electoral choices.”
• Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), stressed that “Congress has very high standards for Taiwan. If the government strays from its principles, it's our responsibility to help the Taiwanese stand up for free elections and free speech – keeping Taiwan honest to its democratic legacy.”
• Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, brought down the house with her announcement of a third hearing focused on Taiwan, democracy and the upcoming election. Ros-Lehtinen pointed out that today’s seminar is being held to assure that there is no backsliding in the achievement of democracy in Taiwan. She stressed that there are “increasing concerns expressed by civil libertarians about such backsliding. Freedom House’s 2010 Freedom in the World report, for example, downgraded Taiwan’s civil liberties ranking from one to two.’ Ros-Lehtinen warned that she would be “watching this election very carefully” and that there will be “no retreat from Taiwan’s democracy.”
There is no doubt that Taiwan’s democracy is of critical importance to our own standing in the world. By supporting the Taiwanese people we send a clear message that the principles that our country was founded upon are being upheld and expanded to other corners of the globe.
Today’s event was an important reminder why honest elections matter -- for democracy, security, human rights and development. And why it is important that we in the United States speak up in support of a “free and fair” process in Taiwan.
Clockwise: Senator Sherrod Brown, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
Congressman Ed Royce, Dr. Joseph Wu, Panel Speakers