A number of civic groups said in Taipei that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) should be allowed to join the 2020 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit, which will be held virtually this year and hosted by Malaysia.
Tsai's participation, along with that of Chair of the National Human Rights Commission Chen Chu (陳菊), will contribute significantly to the APEC leaders' discussions on regional issues, the groups said.
Although Taiwan has been a member of APEC since 1991, its presidents are not allowed to join the annual APEC leaders' summit and instead are usually asked to appoint a proxy, due to opposition by China.
According to local media reports, however, the Taiwan government is in talks with this year's APEC host Malaysia on President Tsai's possible participation in the virtual meeting, which is expected to be held in late November or early December.
At a press conference in Taipei on Tuesday, members of several civic groups said the virtual summit will present an opportunity for Tsai and Chen to propose the establishment of an Asian-Pacific Court of Human Rights.
The success of any future regional economic integration is dependent on a mechanism that will be acceptable to all stakeholders, to resolve disputes about human rights and intellectual property issues, said Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強), convener of the civic group Economic Democracy Union.
Human rights are a crucial issue in the region, particularly in light of Hong Kong's new national security law, which was imposed by China, Lai said.
The law has implications for the tens of thousands of businesspeople from all over the world who regularly visit Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, he said.
Under the law, residents and other people in Hong Kong who are accused of secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces are liable to be tried in a Chinese court and may face life imprisonment if they are found guilty, Lai noted.
Also speaking at the press conference, Shih Yi-hsiang (施逸翔), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, said that in 2003, then-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had proposed the establishment of an Asian-Pacific Court of Human Rights.
Since then, Taiwan has become known internationally for its advancement of human rights, and in 2019 became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, Shih said. .
If Tsai and Chen are given the opportunity to put forth the proposal at APEC for the formation of a regional human rights court, it will lift Taiwan even higher, he said.
The annual APEC summit is a forum that brings together the leaders of the 21 member economies in the Pacific Rim and other countries, including the United States, to discuss a wide range of economic issues, including regional free trade.