I have been committed to the volunteer work of promoting human rights over the past decades and constantly stayed abreast of the developments of human rights and social welfare in Taiwan. I have also been actively involved with the United Nations Human Rights Council and many western countries regarding human rights affairs.
As we all know, April 1 is the Fool’s Day. However, as guardians of human rights, we are not dumb at all. Instead, we are extremely smart. As a member of the human society, we cannot continue our lives without basic human rights being protected.
The Association of World Citizens in Taiwan set April first as the World Citizens Day. This is a very important inspiration to the people of Taiwan. It means Taiwan cannot isolate itself from the rest of the world; we are members of the international community. It is very meaningful that issues of “human rights given by heaven, natural rights based on the people and the rule of law, protecting human rights, and safeguarding the earth” were chosen as the themes of this summit. This is in line with the development of human rights concept. As far as I know, the evolution of human rights can be divided into four stages:
It began in the 18th century when too many dictators continuously abused their power over their citizens. Therefore, the concept of human rights called on the idea that rulers could not infringe upon the rights of their citizens arbitrarily. In this early stage of human rights development, the concept of human rights was passive with emphasis on the dignity and freedom of the ruled.
One hundred years later, in the late 19th century, the concept of human rights called on the notion that rulers, with immense resources and power, had to not only avoid persecution, but also take the initiative to ensure that the basic needs of their citizens were met. Therefore, this stage was about active human rights.
The 20th century saw massive destruction wrought by two World Wars. Human rights, hence, gradually extended beyond individual human rights to collective human rights. Therefore, they touched further upon the rights of national self-awareness, the rights for ethnic groups to develop their potential freely, and the rights of peace among countries and peoples. These were collective human rights.
In the 21st century, the countless natural disasters prompted people to realize that humans are merely a part of all living creatures. Each of us is a visitor to the earth. If we truly want to implement human rights, we must offer the same respect and protection to Mother Nature and all living things in the universe. For this reason, currently human rights have transcended individual and national boundaries and even reached the comprehensive unity of heaven, earth, and humanity.
Based on the knowledge of the development of human rights concept, we can better understand why the topics were chosen by the Summit as the topics are the situations we all live in now. Turning on TV or reading a newspaper, we will see that natural disasters around the world are becoming very common, not only in Taiwan but also in many other corners around the world. In recent years, experts have been telling us that too much CO2 emission has led to the crisis of global warming. However, this year they told us that the revelation from the countless catastrophes shows that the problems we face are not only the issues of CO2. The earth has been sick. The universe contains numerous unknown problems and calamities that are about to strike against us.
Taiwan and the Republic of Paraguay, which has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, happen to be located on the opposite sides of the globe. Chile and Sichuan of China also happen to be situated on the opposite sides of the earth. In 2009, one week before the killer earthquake hit Sichuan, in Chile a volcano which had been dormant for 9000 years erupted. Unexpectedly, the energies released from the volcanic eruption in Chile radiated through the core of the earth to Wuchuan in Sichuan of China and caused a massive earthquake.
Looking back, we saw how devastating the Chilean earthquake was that occurred on February 27, 2010. Before that, a killer earthquake struck Haiti. Then we saw tsunamis and earthquakes, one after another, hitting the volcanic belt in the Pacific Ocean. This region has also been stricken by various hurricanes. In Taiwan, the rainy season in early summer and the typhoon season are coming. At a time like this, we have elevated the concept of human rights to the highest level of the unity of heaven, earth, and humanity. This is a very important issue at this summit.
We have to ask ourselves a very fundamental question. What are we after? More comfortable material lives? More power? Or more basic human dignity, safe and stable lives? Security of life? I think the never-ending problems are happening continuously. If we have realized that we are merely visitors to the earth and that we are all members of this big human family, we will accept the fact that we should get to know and respect those we have met in our lifetime regardless of their ethnic background, gender, or social and economic status because we are all travelers to this blue planet. I think this is true human rights concept. Real human rights and the meanings of live lie in the promotion of equal rights for all.
During my 8 years as the vice-president of Taiwan, I was fortunate to be on the Human Rights Consultative Committee of the Presidential Office. I have been striving for human rights for the people of Taiwan and the people of the world. My past works including current concept of human rights and cases of human rights issues in Taiwan have been compiled into a book. I would like to present the collection to the organizer. This summit on human rights is only the beginning. There is still much more to advocate and put into practice. On behalf of the former Democratic Progressive Party administration, I would like to present to the summit this book on governing a country with human rights.
The only way for all of us to live a better life is we collectively respect heaven, appreciate earth and love people. We have to show our respect for the nature, the maker of the universe, and appreciate every piece of land. We are only the care-taker assigned by God to take care of the wealth, big and small. We shall not bring harm to others or the land or take by force what doesn’t belong to us. It takes tremendous blessings for us to be on the same boat. Therefore, as we get along with others, we shall cherish each person we meet, no matter the relationship is brief or long-lasting. We shall respect heaven, cherish the earth, and love others. Thank you!