Musicians, human rights activists and Wild Strawberries came together for a “Music trumps nationality, human rights knows no borders” concert at Freedom Square (自由廣場) in Taipei last night. Human rights activists from Afghanistan, Nepal and Hong Kong spoke about the importance of human rights and issues in their countries.
The concert was organised to bring people together because human rights are universal regardless of nationality or borders. Event organiser Lynn Miles said, “Tonight we are all citizens in the global village.” He asked members of the crowd from abroad to come and put a candle on the place they were born on the map of the world with no borders. Taiwanese people were asked to put candles on a place they cared about.
And then there was the music. Japanese musician Kobayashi was the first performer singing with an acoustic guitar. Lynn Miles said Kobayashi was active in the peace movement in Japan. He was followed by a lively performance from Native Space, a band from Taichung. Their music was infused with words of peace and politics. The concert finished with a “Wild Strawberry jam” that had the crowd up and dancing.
While the concert was going on another story was unfolding nearby. A group of about 50 Tibetan refugees had gathered in protest. I spoke to a man representing the group and he explained their situation. There are about 110 Tibetans in Taiwan without legal status. Many of them have been here for years and have arrived in Taiwan via India or Nepal with fake documents. Yesterday they had been to the Ministry of Interior and Presidential Office to protest. The government said they would respond within two weeks, but they had been told this before. They felt despair at their situation and decided to go to Freedom Square to protest until their issue was resolved.
The police issued a warning to the Tibetans under the Parade and Assembly Law for the group to disperse. I expressed my concern that the people could be arrested and detained. However, it seems that it was unlikely as this would force the government to acknowledge the refugees’ situation and do something about it. The refugees are effectively stateless and have few options unless the Taiwanese government processes their cases.
Contrary to previous reports the Wild Strawberry movement is still maintaining its presence at Freedom Square. The future direction of the movement is still being actively discussed. Human rights are an issue that won’t go away.