Japan Must Take Leadership for World Democratization
An Interview with Maysing Yang

Yang giving a speech at Inter-Faith and Inter-Ethnic Conference held in November in Tokyo


Maysing Yang

Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights and Democracy
Former Vice President of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy

Born in Tokyo in 1944, Yang moved to Taiwan at the age of 3. She moved to New York for her graduate studies at Fordham University majoring in sociology, and dedicated 20 years in the U.S. to the democratization movement for Taiwan.
After returning to Taiwan, she joined the Democratic Progressive Party and served as Director of its Department of Foreign Affairs. In 2003, she helped found the first foundation for democracy in Asia and became its Vice President.
President Tsai Ing-wen appointed her Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights and Democracy.

For Japan, Taiwan sits in a geopolitically central position for state security. We interviewed Maysing Yang, appointed by President Tsai Ing-wen as Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights and Democracy last November, on her opinions of Japan-Taiwan relations and what she expects from Japan.

(Interviewer: Hanako Cho)


–The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy supports democratization in and outside of Taiwan. Please tell us more about this.

Yang: We founded the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy in 2003 under advice from the U.S. There are 3 main missions. The first is to democratize Taiwan through raising awareness in the people and supporting women.

The second is to support democratization movements outside of Taiwan. During the Kuomintang government, we aided China’s democratization underground, but now, under the Democratic Progressive Party, we can do this in broad daylight.

We also invite young people to Taiwan from not only China but also South East Asia and South Asian countries to do workshops and seminars, and we exchange ideas and have brainstorming sessions on the values of democracy and human rights.

We went to Myanmar to visit Aung San Su Kyi, with another four Women leaders of Democratic Progressive Party about 5 years ago, during which time she was under house arrest, and we have offered support to Myanmar’s democratization movements. We also provided mobile hospitals to Mongolia and the Central Tibetan Administration in India.

We once visited Cambodia with the delegation of EU MPs to try to help democracy take root. We focused on support for women and youth.


Taiwan’s Feelings of Isolation in the World Community

–How do you see Taiwan’s current situation?

Yang: Unfortunately, Taiwan has been isolated from the international community. Taiwan has been attempting to join the UN since 1993, but we are still unable to join.

I think the exclusion of Taiwan from international organizations is definitely a human rights issue. At this smaller global village, Taiwanese has no vote, no voice, no participation, although Taiwan can contribute more to the world in many aspects.

To this day, Japan has taken a nonintervention stance towards Taiwan. When I was working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I met with a Japanese diplomat. I requested moral support from Japan but the official declined on the grounds of nonintervention.

But, say if a child in your neighborhood was suffering domestic violence, you wouldn’t pretend you saw nothing.


The Taiwan Travel Act Brings Hope

On the 9th of January, the U.S. House of representatives passed the Taiwan Travel Act. If it passes through the Senate and the President signs it, American and Taiwanese government officials will be able to visit each other. I wish for Japanese laws to be amended so that Taiwanese Ministers and high ranking officials can visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other governmental organizations in Japan to exchange some thinking and ideas.


80 Percent of Taiwanese People Recognize Themselves as Taiwanese, Not Chinese

Taiwan was forced by China to change her name to be “Chinese Taipei” at many international occasions. Today, more than 80% of Taiwanese do not regard themselves as Chinese. The name of “Chinese Taipei” is an insult to Taiwanese. Therefore, many Japanese people join with the Taiwanese to request changing the country name to “Taiwan” at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I am really grateful for those efforts.


The Trump Effect on Taiwan

–How do you see the Trump government?

Yang: President Trump has leadership and determination. For example, right before his inauguration not only did he make a surprise phone call to President Tsai Ing-wen, but also questioned why the “One China Policy” cannot be changed. Under China’s threat, Taiwan must have the ability to counter China’s arms. The Taiwanese are grateful that Trump is willing to sell more advanced military equipment to Taiwan.

Democratic Countries Wish for Japan to establish a “Japan Foundation for Democracy”

–In your speech in November last year you emphasized the purpose for holding a China democratization movement meeting in Japan.

Yang: Japan is a matured democratic country. Japan after WWII seems to be heavily burdened and shackled. But I think Japan’s values of democracy can help democratize China and be the democratic leader in the Asian region. Japan is a big donor to the UN and provides foreign aid. It is really great that Japan has done so much contributing, especially to cultural and educational aspects. On the other hand, I think it is so important that Japan establishes a “Japan Foundation for Democracy” (or called “Japan National Endowment for Democracy”) as the “National Endowment for Democracy” (NED) of US. -Taiwan Foundation for Democracy divides giving funding to three parts, namely to political parties, to domestic NGOs and to international NGOs. Through those key players, that can support democratization of China and other Asian countries. Democracy and Freedom is declining for the last 12 years according to the report of the Freedom House. It is urgent for Japan to bear a politically leadership role in Asia as the US and many democratic countries expect that of Japan.

Japan Must Take Leadership for World Democratization
Copyright © IRH Press Co.Ltd. All Right Reserved.