Taiwan News, Dec. 30, 2002
By Jessie Ho
Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou yesterday publicly called on China to treat the Falun Gong religious sect with mercy and halt the crackdown on the group’s members. Ma is the second prominent political figure in Taiwan, after Vice President Annette Lu to voice support for the Falun Gong group.
“Freedom of religion is a universal value, as well as a basic human right,” Ma said at an annual Falun Gong assembly.
The Falun Gong movement is banned in China where it is viewed by the authorities as a nefarious cult, and thousand of its followers have reportedly been persecuted.
“I’m not afraid of irritating a certain government and regime by attending a Falun Gong’s activity,” Ma said. He likened his open support for the Falun Gong to his attendance at the annual memorial to honor those who died in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
“The value of human rights should be recognized across borders,” Ma said. “The unification of China and Taiwan cannot proceeded unless there is some redress in relation to the massacres.”
Ma further said Beijing should recognize the pluralistic nature of Chinese culture and show tolerance for the differences that exist. The China authorities should abandon their cruel suppression of Falun Gong members, since Beijing deems itself the successor of Chinese culture, the mayor said.
Chang Ching-hsih, director of the Taiwan Falun Dafa Institute, said that Ma’s presence at the assembly had nothing to do with politics.
“Falun Gong groups never interfere in political issues,” Chang said. “The Chinese government has been oppressing the Falun Gong movement for years, and 500 of our practitioners have died as a result. However, no member of the Falun Gong in China has ever advocated subversion of the Chinese authorities,” Chang said.
But, Chang said that though the Falun Gong does not actively seek support from political figures, greater media exposure could help the movement’s practitioners call attention to China’s prosecution. “Assistance from any quarter is welcome,” Chang said.
Vice President Annette Lu, also convenor of a human rights consulting panel under the Presidential Office, has voiced her support for the Falun Gong. On July 20 this year, which marked the third anniversary of the biggest crackdown on the movement by China, Lu delivered an audio taped address to the Falun Gong at a rally in Washington.