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Oslo Freedom Forum founder recounts clash with KMT over China criticism

10/18/2023 08:15 PM
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Founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum Thor Halvorssen delivers a speech at the event in Taipei on Wednesday. Oct. 18, 2023
Founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum Thor Halvorssen delivers a speech at the event in Taipei on Wednesday. Oct. 18, 2023

Taipei, Oct. 18 (CNA) The visiting founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum Thor Halvorssen on Wednesday recounted how a request that he not criticize China during a 2010 conference attended by then-Kuomintang (KMT) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had the reverse effect of causing him to be more vocal on the issue.

"You don't typically tell an activist to be quiet on a subject of human rights. You know, it's just a terrible idea," Halvorssen told a press event before the start of this year's half-day forum, which takes place Wednesday in Taipei.

Halvorssen, the head of the U.S.-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF), had been asked to comment on his claims that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) under Ma's then-KMT government had pleaded with him "not to say anything negative about the communist Chinese" in a conference speech in Taipei over a decade ago.

Recounting the incident, Halvorssen said the request was counterproductive, resulting in him rewriting his speech the night before the conference to include more criticisms of China.

According to Halvorssen, Ma and his entourage "got up and walked out" five minutes into his revised speech, which the activist said took aim at the Chinese Communist Party for being "the most criminal syndicate that violates human rights in the world."

Halvorssen reaired his claims about the 2010 speech along with allegations that he was kicked out of his hotel in retaliation during a meeting with a Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Monday.

Following Monday's meeting, DPP lawmakers demanded that Ma apologize for his administration's alleged treatment of Halvorssen.

However, on Tuesday, the head of the Ma Ying-jeou Foundation Hsiao Hsu-tsen (蕭旭岑) stated Halvorssen had been clear it was MOFA and not Ma who had made the request regarding the content of the 2010 speech.

MOFA, meanwhile, said it has full respect for Halvorssen's personal remarks and views and has no further comment.

The Oslo Freedom Forum is an international human rights conference series launched by the HRF in 2009.

The forum aims to bring together notable people, including former heads of state, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, prisoners of conscience, as well as other public figures in order to network and exchange ideas about human rights and exposing dictatorships, said on its website.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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