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Taiwan beat coronavirus without sacrificing democracy: President

Tsai Ing-wen says democratic nations must never rest until whole world is free

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President Tsai Ing-wen. (YouTube, Presidential Office screenshot)

President Tsai Ing-wen. (YouTube, Presidential Office screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — During a speech at a democracy summit on Friday (June 19), President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Taiwan fought off the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) without sacrificing its democracy — and democratic nations should never rest until everyone is free.

As the featured speaker at the 3rd Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Friday, which was held online, Tsai said that Taiwan's experience of COVID-19 showed it could beat the virus without sacrificing democracy. The pandemic has led to the rearrangement of global supply chains and economic strategies, she said, adding all democratic countries with similar ideas should work more closely together.

She said the signing of an investment agreement between Taiwan and the European Union would be "a great first step."

Tsai also mentioned that democratic countries should make use of economic forces to consolidate and strengthen democracy. During her second term as president, she said the administration would continue to develop democracy and deepen Taiwan's relations with other democratic countries.

The Copenhagen Democracy Summit, organized by the Alliance of Democracies, was held online this year because of the pandemic. Tsai was invited to deliver a pre-recorded speech to open the summit and the moderator Jeanne Meserve introduced Tsai as the "President of the Republic of China."

In her speech, Tsai pointed out that Taiwan's experience in responding to the outbreak shows that it is important not to sacrifice "our most important democratic principles." She asserted that Taiwan's democracy has been a "critical asset" in Taiwan's battle against the virus because it gave "everyone a stake in stopping this pandemic."

Given Taiwan's success, Tsai said it was all the more disappointing the World Health Organization (WHO) put politics ahead global public health and failed to invite Taiwan to share its experience of fighting the virus at this year's World Health Assembly (WHA). She emphasized that Taiwan is ready to assist other countries and pointed out how Taiwan has already donated essential medical supplies to more than 80 countries, including more than 52 million masks.

Unlike communist China, Tsai said that Taiwan's assistance to other countries has never been a question of "quid pro quo," but was instead based on the needs of international friends. Taiwan believes that in terms of strengthening democracy, it is also a matter of "helping ourselves in order to help others."

Tsai pointed out that while building, renewing, and sustaining democracy at home, "we are supporting the cause of democracy around the world." Likewise, if countries allow anti-democratic forces and dictatorships to expand internationally, "we are neglecting our own democratic values."

She then focused on Hong Kong and said that Taiwan, together with the international community, calls on the Beijing authorities to abide by their commitments and respect Hong Kong's fundamental freedoms. "We do not believe in merely looking on as others defend their freedom," said Tsai.

The president noted that with only weeks before the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China, the situation in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate. She pledged that Taiwan will continue to provide all necessary humanitarian assistance to the people of Hong Kong people.

Tsai stated that Taiwan is on the frontline of the global community of democracies, while "authoritarian forces regularly target our people through hybrid tactics meant to intimidate, isolate, and misinform." However, she asserted the results of the presidential election in January this year proved these attacks only strengthened the resolve of the people of Taiwan to defend its democracy.

Tsai said the road to recovery after the outbreak will be very difficult, and the democratic system will suffer. Therefore, the international community needs to find a new balance, which includes "weighing values and economic interests more equitably."

As the pandemic has forced a rearrangement of global supply chains and economic strategies, Tsai believes this presents an opportunity for increased cooperation among like-minded democracies across the world. She predicts that European and American businesses will seek more reliable partners.

She directly addressed investors by saying: "Democratic Taiwan with its respect for the rule of law, human rights, and intellectual property, its talented workforce, and its strong and trustworthy track record in high-tech industries welcomes your investment."

For her second term as president, Tsai pledged that "Taiwan will continue to stand for democracy at home," while deepening ties with other democracies around the world. She then reminded other democratic countries not to rest on their laurels:

"Those privileged to live in a democracy must never rest until the entire world can share in the birthright that is freedom."

The Democratic Alliance is a non-governmental organization established by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Danish Prime Minister and former Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in 2017, and the summit was held for the first time in 2018.