On January 11, the Republic of China (Taiwan) held its seventh direct presidential election since 1996. Despite intimidation, disinformation and meddling from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), President Tsai Ing-Wen won her second term in office decisively, with a record majority of 8.17 million votes, representing 57 per cent of the popular vote. The turnout reached a historic new high of 74.90 per cent of the electorate. Her Democratic Progressive Party also retained the majority (62) in the 113-seat parliament.
President Tsai’s victory was seen as a blow to China, as well as a total rebuff of PRC’s “one country, two systems” model by the people of Taiwan. These smooth and successful elections are not only testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy but also a manifestation of Taiwan’s sovereignty and independence. “Taiwan has once again demonstrated the strength of its robust democratic system and makes it a model for the Indo-Pacific region and a force for good in the world,” the US secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, had said in his congratulatory statement.
Opinion: A World Away in Wuhan
The Republic of China (Taiwan) has been an independent sovereign country since its founding in 1912. Following the civil war and the inception of the PRC in mainland China in 1949, Taiwan and the PRC have established their respective governments and separate constitutions with jurisdictions independent from each other between the Taiwan strait. The government of Taiwan exercises its sovereign rights and establishes diplomatic relations with friendly countries. It is crystal clear that Taiwan has never been under the PRC’s rule for a single day. Therefore, the PRC’s claim that Taiwan is her internal affair is mendacious and qualifies as disinformation. Over the past 70 years, Taiwan has weathered numerous challenges and setbacks, in particular, constant threats from PRC, and has become a progressive and democratic country. With the determined and concerted efforts of its people, Taiwan has achieved both economic miracles and peaceful democratisation.
The people of Taiwan cherish their freedom, values and democratic way of life. In the wake of the pro-democracy demonstrations that hit the streets of Hong Kong in March 2019, the people of Taiwan empathised with and were supportive of Hong Kong’s people movement to protect their freedom and democratic way of life. Unfortunately, the government of Hong Kong rejected its people’s demands and took ruthless and violent actions against them — all of which the PRC leadership turned a blind eye to. This is a complete failure of the “one country, two systems” model in Hong Kong: It simply attests to the fact that the people of Taiwan have rightfully rejected China’s “one country, two systems” model since its inception in 1997.
A rising China, using its might and any possible means, has never stopped suffocating Taiwan’s international space over the past 70 years. Ever since President Tsai Ing-Wen took office in May 2016, China has been relentlessly intensifying all manner of pressures on Taiwan on the international and domestic fronts. To intimidate the people of Taiwan, China’s military planes and vessels have been frequently cruising closer to the island of Taiwan — its aircraft sailed over the Taiwan strait just two weeks ahead of the presidential election. The results of the election showed that these belligerent actions could only bear bitter fruit and drift the people across the Taiwan strait even further apart.
With seven countries having switched their diplomatic recognition to China in three years, the number of diplomatic allies of Taiwan now stands reduced to 15. Taiwan, since 1971, is also barred from participating in the UN system and numerous international organisations — bearing in mind the common interest of the international community, due to China’s erroneous claim of the “one-China principle”.
However, to keep Taiwan out of the World Health Organisation, especially at this highly sensitive time of the novel coronavirus outbreak, constitutes clear and present danger to not only the 23 million people in Taiwan but also the billions of people around the globe. China must stop playing politics with global health. It is time for Taiwan to be included in the international efforts to contain the novel coronavirus.
This article first appeared in the print edition on February 20, 2020 under the title “A Force For Global Good”. Ambassador Tien Chung Kwang is the representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India.
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