Taiwan faces an increasingly difficult position as China pressures the democratic island to accept conditions that will turn it into the next Hong Kong, its top diplomat told US Health Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday.
Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the top U.S. official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by China that claims the island as its own.
Chinese fighter jets on Monday briefly crossed the middle line of Taiwan’s sensitive Strait and were tracked down by Taiwanese anti-aircraft missiles, part of what Taipei sees as a model of harassment from Beijing.
Azar’s trip to Taiwan also coincided with a further crackdown on Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where, on Monday, police arrested media mogul Jimmy Lai under a stricter new national security law.
“Our lives have become increasingly difficult as China continues to put pressure on Taiwan to accept its political terms, conditions that will turn Taiwan into the next Hong Kong,”; Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in a joint press release. with Azar in Taipei.
China has proposed a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy to make Taiwan accept its rule, as much as it uses in Hong Kong.
The proposal has been rejected in Taiwan by all major parties and the government.
Wu said Taiwan was lucky to have friends like Azar in the United States to help fight for Taiwan’s international space.
“We know that this is not just about Taiwan’s status, but about maintaining democracy in the face of authoritarian aggression. Taiwan must win these battles in order for democracy to prevail.”
Washington severed official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing, but is still Taiwan’s largest arms supplier. The Trump administration has stepped up its support for the democratic island, as relations with China are sour on issues involving human rights and trade.
Azar is in Taiwan to offer not only the administration support for its democracy, but to learn about its successful fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Taiwan has kept its infection rate low, thanks to early and effective prevention efforts.
Azar said the world should recognize Taiwan’s health achievements, pointing to Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO) because of Chinese opposition, which considers Taiwan merely a far-sighted province.
“Especially during a pandemic, but at all times, international organizations should not be places to play politics. They should be places for constructive, open dialogue and cooperation.”
Both China and the WHO said Taiwan had been provided with the assistance it needed during the pandemic.
Reuters news agency