Blind Chinese civil rights activist to visit Taiwan
Central News Agency
Taipei, Aug. 28 (CNA) Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng has agreed to visit Taiwan, and the Mainland Affairs Council has responded positively to the idea, the president of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights said Monday.
Chen, a civil rights lawyer and activist who managed to escape house arrest in his hometown in Shandong Province in May and is now a visiting scholar at New York University, has agreed to visit Taiwan but the exact timing has yet to be decided, said Yang Hsien-hung.
According to Yang, he was in contact with Chen's wife almost once a week during her husband's house arrest.
"We have developed a trusting relationship," he said.
Yang has asked opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chia-lung, who is in the United States to observe the Republican National Convention, to formally invite Chen to Taiwan when he visits the Chinese activist in New York Friday.
"I'll invite Chen to visit Taiwan on behalf of Yang, and I'll also invite him to deliver a speech at our Legislative Yuan on behalf of our party whip Ker Chien-ming," Lin told CNA.
The invitation could present Taiwan's government with a dilemma and test its commitment to human rights.
President Ma Ying-jeou's administration has worked to cultivate better relations with Beijing since he first took office in May 2008, and it has been reluctant at times to allow visits by individuals considered thorns in the side of China's Communist Party, such as Uighur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, to avoid disturbing the improving ties.
But Yang said he has informed Lai Shin-yuan, the head of the Mainland Affairs Council, of his plan to host Chen's visit to Taiwan and got a "positive response."
"(She) praised the plan as being 'very good,'" Yang said, adding that Lai has even assigned a staffer to help with the planning.
An official with the council, the agency in charge of planning Taiwan's China policy, said the council is aware of a civic group's plan to invite Chen to Taiwan and has provided it with information about application procedures and needed documents and application forms.
Because Taiwan is a liberal democratic country, mainland Chinese expatriates are welcome to visit Taiwan as long as they submit applications in accordance with existing regulations, the official said.
The law currently requires that such visits receive the prior approval of the National Immigration Agency.
Blind from an early age, the self-taught Chen is frequently described as a "barefoot lawyer" who advocates women's rights and the welfare of the poor.
He is best known for exposing abuses in China's official family-planning policy, often involving claims of violence and forced abortions.
Chen was sentenced to four years and three months for "damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic". He was released from prison in 2010 after serving his full sentence, but remained under house arrest at his home in Dongshigu Village.
In April this year, Chen escaped his house arrest and fled to the United States Embassy in Beijing. After negotiations with the Chinese government, he left the embassy for medical treatment in early May.
On May 19, Chen, his wife, and his two children were granted U.S. visas and departed Beijing for New York City.
(By Tseng Ying-yu, Chai Ssu-chia and Sofia Wu)
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