Taipei film festival examines human rights

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian said yesterday at the opening of a human rights film festival in Taipei that every government employee should be a “human rights worker” because promoting such an ideal is the government’s job.

Chen thanked the festival organizers — the Human Rights Education Foundation (HREF) and the Chinese Taipei Film Archive — for their work to raise the public’s consciousness on human rights and to preserve valuable visual assets, respectively.

Looking back at the 20th century, Chen said it was actually a century “filled with all manner of physical and spiritual imprisonment.”

Quoting HREF founder and chairman Bo Yang, the pen name of a prolific writer who was arrested in 1968 and jailed for over nine years for his alleged communist sympathies, Chen added: “Past errors and crimes can be understood, tolerated and forgiven, but they must not be forgotten.”

“The Last Days,” a movie produced by Steven Spielberg about the lives of a group of Jewish people near the end of World War Two, was the first film to be shown at the festival.

Chen announced that six other films with human rights as their themes will be shown in the week of the nation’s Peace Memorial Day, which falls on Feb. 28. The national holiday was declared in remembrance of those lost in the unrest and aftermath of the Feb. 28 Incident of 1947, a particularly dark and bloody incident of human rights violation in the island’s history.

The six films include “My Name Is Joe,” “Bread and Roses,” “Land and Freedom,” “Burnt by the Sun,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Dead Man Walking.”

Festival organizers urged the public to remember that human rights issues are not simply about political persecution but also about the broader issue of the respect between people in their daily lives.

Meanwhile, a government agency in charge of planning a human rights memorial park on Green Island, an offshore island where political prisoners including Bo Yang were once jailed, announced that the park will be open to the public in 2003 at the earliest.

A human rights memorial built by the HREF in 1999 will be incorporated into the park, as will a human rights historical data library and an old military compound on the island, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications added.