Even as China begins full-scale military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, a delegation of 12 Law School students is preparing for a 10-day visit to Taiwan to monitor the island nation's first-ever democratic elections.
In spite of escalating tension with mainland China, the delegation plans to visit Taiwan from March 23 to March 31 to study Taiwan's democratization process and international status, according to a press release.
"You don't plan a surprise attack by threatening to invade," said Law School student and delegation member J. Andrew Jackson. "As lawyers interested in the negotiation and mediation process, the current conflict makes our visit particularly timely".
At the invitation of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice, the group will visit polling sites in and around Taipei City to observe the balloting process, tabulation of votes and other election procedures, said Peter C. Kuo, a second-year Law School student and spokesperson for the delegation.
"One of [our] main goals is to observe how an authoritarian regime has been replaced by a democracy in less than 10 years," Kuo said.
Four of the 12 delegates are officers of the Harvard Asia Law Society (HALS), the group organizing the trip. The other eight are students with a strong interest and background in Asia, according to Kuo.
The delegation will also meet with Taiwan's Minister of Justice, Ma Ying-Jeou, a Law School graduate and president of the Harvard Club of Taiwan.
Through Ma's influence, the group managed to gain access to Taiwan's provincial government and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) to study international peacekeeping and arbitration methods.
To balance its view of Taiwan's political situation, the delegation plans to meet with members of Taiwan's main opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Even in light of potential Chinese military action, none of the delegates seems too concerned about personal safety.
"Our hosts didn't say anything about security problems," Aya Gruber, a second-year Law School student and the trip's chair. "I don't think the Peoples' Republic of China is going to be too interested in our visit."
The trip will be funded by contributions from both American and Taiwanese law firms.
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