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Human rights activist Lynn Miles dies

2015/06/08 15:20:59

Lynn Miles (right) attends an human rights exhibition in Taipei in 2011. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, June 8 (CNA) Lynn Miles (梅心怡), a human rights activist who made massive contributions to Taiwan's democracy, died of cancer in Taipei Monday at the age of 72.

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and its 2016 presidential candidate, who is currently on a 12-day visit to the United States, posted on her Facebook page that she was saddened by the news.

Tsai lauded Miles as a witness of an era and said she could not forget Miles' words to her prior to her U.S. visit that "(she) must safeguard Taiwanese people and must not let them be harmed." A photo of her and Miles at his sick bed on May 16 was also posted.

Tsai said that in the strict political suppression of the 1970s, Miles was driven by his sense of justice to help dissidents convey news about Taiwan overseas.

She said that a lot of good friends like Miles helped "Taiwan to go from the path of undemocratic to democratic."

Miles, born in New Jersey in 1943, came to Taiwan to learn Chinese in 1962. Between 1965 and 1966, he read "Formosa Betrayed," written by George H. Kerr, a vice consul of the U.S. Consulate who witnessed the 1947 crackdown of an anti-government uprising known as the 228 Incident and saw at first-hand the corruption of the government officials at the time.

At around this time, Miles also made the acquaintance of dissidents such as scholars Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and Li Ao (李敖), which gave him an insight into the darkness of Taiwanese politics of the time.

In early 1970, he secretly helped Peng to flee to Sweden. A year later, he tried to help Li and two of Peng's students after their arrest, but was deported from Taiwan and put on a blacklist for 25 years until 1996.

Starting in 1975, Miles began a rescue mission in the name of the International Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Taiwan, and worked with Amnesty International and American professor James Seymour to publish the persecution of Chen Chu (陳菊, now Kaohsiung mayor) and other political prisoners, foreign missionaries and students.

In 1996, when he was in the United States, Miles extended support for the Peng Ming-min-Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) ticket for the presidential election and staged a hunger strike to protest against China's lobbing of missiles into the Taiwan Strait in the runup to that year's presidential election in Taiwan.

Due to his efforts, international human rights groups and the U.S. Congress began to notice and put pressure on the KMT administration.

In 2006, during the administration of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the Ministry of the Interior gave Miles permanent residency for his "special contributions to the nation." He spent his later years in Lungtan, Taoyuan, and taught at Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City.

He also took part in the student-led "Sunflower Movement" protest that occupied the Executive Yuan briefly in March 2014.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Lilian Wu)
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