The South China Morning Post reports that blind activist Chen Guangcheng arrived in Taipei on Monday to begin a trip in which he will meet with human rights groups and address Taiwan’s parliament:
“I’m glad to visit Taiwan,” Chen told reporters before being whisked away.
[…] At least one Taiwanese university has expressed interest in inviting Chen to the island as a visiting scholar, said Yang Sen-hong, chairman of the Association for China Human Rights, which is hosting his high-profile visit.
“It is a trip for freedom and human rights. It is of special significance when Taiwan is engaging China,” Yang said of his visit, referring to improving ties between the former rivals. [Source]
Chen wasted no time in criticising China’s authoritarian government following his arrival in Taipei, according to the Associated Press, which reports that he warned Beijing that its attempts to curb dissent will ultimately backfire:
Chen Guangcheng said Monday he is convinced that the rapidly growing yearnings for freedoms and human rights among the Chinese will eventually “put an end to the authoritarian rule” in China. Chen spoke at a news conference in Taiwan, where he is making a two-week visit.
[…] On Monday, Chen accused Beijing of spending billions of dollars annually to monitor dissidents and activists and put them in jail if they refused to stop their advocacies.
“No other regimes in the world have feared or monitored their own people in such a way,” Chen said. [Source]
David Bandurski of the China Media Project notes that news of Chen’s Taiwan trip was “heavily censored” on mainland China’s social media sites, and he highlights one post on Sina Weibo that remained up for about three hours before being deleted. Chen’s visit is likely to rankle authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait – The Associated Press points out that Chen’s arrival presents a challenge for Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, who earned re-election last year on a pledge to continue improving relations with mainland China, and BBC News expects Chen’s 18-day trip will anger Beijing:
His visit is being hosted by the Association for China Human Rights, which has described it as “a trip for freedom and human rights”.
The group is linked to Taiwan’s political opposition. Chaperoning Mr Chen will be many Taiwan democracy activists and individuals who have criticised China in the past, the BBC’s Cindy Sui in Taipei reports. [Source]
Chen’s visit comes amid controversy over his upcoming departure from New York University – he said in a statement that NYU asked him to leave because of pressure from Chinese authorities, but the school denies those claims. Chen’s connections to right-wing anti-abortion groups have also come under scrutiny as he contemplates his next move, stoking concern that he has become a politicised figure in the United States. And to add to the political rift, reports emerged late last week claiming that not only that NYU had attempted to curtail Chen’s human rights-related activities, but also that a leader of the Christian advocacy group ChinaAid had given Chen electronic gifts that contained surveillance software.