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Home Editorials of Interest Articles of Interest Aquia Tsay calls for release of Chen Shui-bian and public vote on Taiwan status (Photos)

Aquia Tsay calls for release of Chen Shui-bian and public vote on Taiwan status (Photos)

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Aquia Tsay poses with his wife

During an on-the-spot interview at Democracy Camp in Taipei, Aquia Tsay explained what motivates him and others to march in support of imprisoned Chen Shui-bian. Aquia helped lead a month-long march around the island by the Taiwan Justice Rescue Force culminating in the Democracy Camp encampment outside the presidential office building.

Chen Shui-bian is the former president of the Republic of China in-exile now serving a lengthy prison sentence for alleged corruption. Chen was convicted following a controversial trial marred by procedural irregularities and is now hospitalized following four years of harsh prison conditions.

View slideshow: Taiwan Policy Examiner

“Because the general public is not organized and the big media, television, radio stations and newspaper, usually do not cover events with small numbers of people we have planned a thirty-day march around the island. We use this kind of activity to bring the attention of the people here on the weekend of International Human Rights Day,” said Aquia.

A democracy advocate, Aquia reviewed tumultuous events in Taiwan’s struggle for self-determination: “Thirty-three years ago in Taiwan’s history, the Taiwanese used people power to force the government to lift martial law. In 1979, the Taiwanese people used nonviolent action to protest martial law. Finally, martial law was lifted in 1987. Three years later, in 1990, students and professors had a nonviolent action again to ask for the direct election of president and to change the parliament completely.”

Aquia said, “Before, the members of parliament came in from China until 1992, when another nonviolent action took place. Finally, the government gave way to the people’s wish and in 1996 we had the first direct presidential election and election for seats in the parliament.”

However, Aquia believes that much still needs to be done to fully establish democracy in Taiwan. One of the tasks is to obtain justice for Chen Shui-bian. “It was politics that put Chen in jail, it will be politics that gets him out,” said Aquia.

“Right now seventeen city and county councils have passed [resolutions] to ask the government to grant President Chen medical parole but the government still does not agree to do that. So we feel people should get out and put more pressure on the government”. Aquai said, “That is why we had a thirty-day crusade around the island.”

“We wish President Chen can have his health and we wish the Taiwanese people will come out to save his life.”

Aquia is chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, “We think Taiwan has been under Republic of China exiled government for sixty-seven years without referendum. We try to say that we should have the freedom we have observed in the United States. The referendum has many obstacles. Many people must sign up. Then we must get another petition of representatives in order to move into the final voting process. Then, there must be over fifty percent [turnout]. It is very difficult; I don’t think that in the United States, even for the presidential election, the turnout is that much”

“Under these kind of obstacles the referendum is very limited. So we do not feel that it is really a democratic system,” asserted Aquia.

Democracy Camp did not come without some bruises. While scouting the location of Democracy Camp the night before the encampment began, Aquia and several other organizers got into a heated discussion with police and were pulled from their car and beaten.

“By law we are allowed to have this event on the whole street. But the police decided last night to only give us half of the street to hold the event. So I argued with them. I was sitting in the car arguing with them and then they forcibly opened the car door and pulled us out violently. That is why I got hurt on joints on my whole body and my head hit something, that is why I stayed in the hospital to recover from the suffering,” said Aquia.

“This is not the first time, actually I have been hospitalized a couple of times. One was in 2008, when I was on a hunger strike to protest that Ma Ying-jeou allowed the Chinese Communist Party’s officials to visit Taiwan. He tried to use this event to confuse the international community that Chinese Communist Party members are welcome to come over,” explained Aquia. “I tried to bring to the Taiwanese attention so I was on a hunger strike. After a week my supporters sent me to the hospital.”

“Then after that we stay on the streets for almost four years. After the hunger strike I was on the street protesting many times. I was fined about $21 million[ NT]. A couple of times I was kicked by the police and people sent me to the hospital,” said Aquia.

“I think the police tried to make their voice heavy, but I can see in their minds they support our ideas because they are Taiwanese. But they are working for the government. That is why we are using nonviolent action and theory to try and convince them that in the final moments they can stand on the people’s side. They don’t have to listen to the injustice government.”

Aquia feels the court system must be overturned: “Since 2008 and 2010 there have been many nonviolent actions around the world and many dictatorships overturned.by the people’s power. We are trying to train Taiwanese people in a disciplined way so that the international community will understand we are still under dictatorship, although they say we have elections. But the elections are not fair because the judicial system is not fair. Because at election times if the Kuomintang candidates are caught doing things the court always lets them go free. If it is somebody else against the KMT they will get in trouble. So even though Taiwan has elections right now, it is not really free.”

“So I would like to tell the American people and the western world to understand that Taiwan is not really a free country. It is only partially free. The freedom we do have is because the Taiwanese people have been fighting for so long against martial law, against no direct presidential election, against no election for the parliament,” said Aquia.

“I think that if the American people truly believe that freedom and democracy mean the freedom to choose, then they will understand we are free to choose change.”

Aquia said, “We don’t like to be under dictatorship for so long. We want to change from dictatorship to democracy. We share the same values as any modern country in the world. People in modern society can give us encouragement and support, then we will fight what we have to fight.”

Aquia concluded, “The constitution of the ROC is a document from China…and has not been voted by the Taiwanese people. It is totally emigrated from China. Taiwan did not participate in setting up this constitution. The ROC is an exiled government from China. So we have to end this ROC system in Taiwan.”

Source: Michael Richardson - Boston Progressive Examiner

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A farmer in Chiayi County yesterday takes advantage of the good weather to take in the harvest.
Photo: Lin Yi-chang, Taipei Times

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