Taipei, May 7 (CNA) Opposition lawmakers grilled Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) head Lai Shin-yuan on Monday about the government's stance on the case of Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng.
"What did the president say in regard to the case of Chen Guangchen?" Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Ying-yuan asked Lai in a legislative session.
Lai was asked to report on the Taiwanese government's response to cases of human rights violation in China since 2008 and the possibility of including human rights clauses in cross-Taiwan Strait agreements.
Lai said the government's stance is laid out in a statement the MAC issued earlier, calling on China to deal with its human rights activists in a "rational and peaceful" way since they "represent a very important voice."
She also said the mainland Chinese government should ensure legal justice, protect human rights, and carry out political reforms.
The Taiwanese people "are all watching" how mainland China handles its human rights cases, she said.
Lee also asked if the MAC will declare its stance on Chen's case at the upcoming meeting between Taiwan and China's top negotiators in June.
In response, Lai said "we could ask Chiang Pin-kung (chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation) to raise the issue."
The top-level talks between Chiang and Chen Yunlin, president of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, are expected to address issues such as investment protection and customs cooperation.
Meanwhile, in response to DPP Legislator Chen Ming-wen's question about whether the government will invite the Chinese activist to Taiwan, Lai said it will be no problem for Chen Guangcheng to visit if he is invited by private groups and all procedures are carried out in compliance with regulations.
Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer, escaped house arrest last month and made his way to U.S. Embassy in Beijing a few days later.
He has since expressed a wish to go to the U.S., citing concern for the safety of his family if he remains in China.
He was held prisoner for more than four years for organizing a class suit against the government for forcing women to have abortions under China's one-child policy.
When asked by ruling Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Chi-chen whether she viewed the Chinese activist as a dissident or a human rights fighter, Lai said he is a "civil rights activist."
Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yee questioned why the MAC was no longer updating the information on its website about cases of human rights violations in China.
In response, Lai said that instead of posting such information on its website, the MAC has provided a link to a foundation that releases more comprehensive reports on the human rights situation in China.
The minister urged China to actively respond to its people's call for greater freedom, democracy, justice and human rights protection.
"The human rights issue is an indicator of the distance between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait," she said.
(By Christie Chen)