Chen: Repressive Regimes are “Doomed to Fail”

While Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) declined to meet with blind activist Chen Guangcheng, the head of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) welcomed Chen on Wednesday and praised his perseverance as a dissident. From Verna Yu of the South China Morning Post:

DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang told Chen that many leading DPP politicians had been political dissidents imprisoned under one-party KMT rule in Taiwan in the 1970s and ’80s and urged mainland activists not to give up hope in their fight for democracy.

Chen, who is on a two-week fact-finding visit to Taiwan, said regimes that repress their own people are “doomed to fail”.

Asked after the meeting whether the DPP should abandon its pro-independence stance – a condition set by China for bilateral talks – the blind activist said: “The concept of independence is outdated.”

He added that he was more supportive of the concept of “one country, two systems”, although it should be decided by a vote of citizens as to which regime they would choose, and not be imposed by the authorities. DPP spokesman Jason Lai said Chen was entitled to his view. [Source]

Chen arrived in Taipei on Monday to begin a two-week trip in which he will meet with human rights groups and address Taiwanese lawmakers. He has sought to focus on Taiwan’s success with democracy and contrast its freedoms with that of mainland China, according to The New York Times, while Reuters reports that he has evaded questions about his controversial departure from NYU.

On Tuesday, The Economist reported that Chen “wasted no time” in visiting an old prison on the outskirts of Taipei which the KMT used to lock up dissidents during nearly 40-years authoritarian rule over the island. And while Chen visited Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday, praising its democracy, a fight broke out between Taiwan’s notoriously combative legislators. From The Wall Street Journal:

It was an ironic moment for the blind political dissident, whose trip has otherwise been focused on tense subjects like China human-rights abuses, accusations of spyware on his electronics and his own contentious departure from New York University. Mr. Chen made worldwide headlines last May after a daring escape from home detention in China to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, sparking a diplomatic crisis that was eventually diffused when he was allowed to move to the U.S.

While Mr. Chen said China should aspire toward Taiwan’s democratic openness, his visit to Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan was also a reminder that elected politics can be messy, especially for young democracies like Taiwan.

The furor Tuesday revolved around controversial bills including a proposed revision to Taiwan’s capital gains tax on stock-market earnings and a cross-strait service trade agreement. Lawmakers from both sides wrestled for the podium, shoving and shouting, even as Mr. Chen held forth on the merits of democracy in a nearby chamber. One legislator bit another, according to local news reports. [Source]

The Wall Street Journal added that when told of the commotion, Chen said “it’s still better to have shoving in the legislature than to have tanks rolling in the streets.”