Who Is Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's De Facto Ambassador to the US?

Who Is Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's De Facto Ambassador to the US?
Photo Credit: CNA
What you need to know

Hsiao Bi-Khim is the first woman to become de facto ambassador to the U.S. She has been advocate for progressive causes throughout her long career in the Democratic Progressive Party.

Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), 48, has been appointed Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States. This past April, Hsiao had taken up a position as an advisory committee member at the National Security Council. She is the first woman to become de facto ambassador to the U.S. 

Throughout her political career, Hsiao has upheld progressive causes such as backing Tibetans by forming a “Friends of Tibet” caucus in the legislature, supporting the Sunflower Student Movement by going on hunger strike, and promoting marriage equality by proposing legislation as early as 2006.

Hsiao had a multicultural childhood. She was born in Japan, raised in Taiwan, and educated in the United States.

During her studies abroad, Hsiao got her start in politics. She first took up the position as an activity coordinator at the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s representative office in the United States. Upon returning to Taiwan in the 1990s, she started to work in the party's international affairs division, rising to a directorship role while still in her twenties. 

Hsiao was an interpreter and adviser for Taiwan’s first elected DPP President, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), on diplomatic policy from 2000 to 2002. In 2001, she ran for legislature and won a seat as a supplementary member representing the DPP.

Hsiao renounced her U.S. citizenship when she became a legislator in 2002. 

Although Hsiao was only a legislator for Hualien County for a four-year term, she had spent a decade there. In 2010, Hsiao ran in “deep blue” (strongly pro-Kuomintang) Hualien and lost with a slim minority in the by-election.

花蓮立委選戰 蕭美琴敗選感謝支持者相挺
Photo Credit: CNA
Hsiao Bi-khim embracing a supporter, January 2020.

Hsiao did not retire after this loss. Instead, she set up a Hualien service office and continued making weekly journeys between Taipei and Hualien. Six years later in 2016, she defeated the same opponent and became the legislator for Hualien County. It was the first time Hualien elected a DPP legislator in 12 years.

But a recall campaign was organized against Hsiao in 2018 because of her strong support for same-sex marriage legalization. Although the first stage of the recall petition passed, Hsiao did not yield to pressure and continued to speak out for Hualien Pride. The second stage of the petition never reached the threshold for removing Hsiao from office.

Receiving the DDP’s nomination, Hsiao ran for another term in Hualien county in the 2020 presidential and legislative elections. She lost her seat to former Hualien County Mayor Fu Kun-chi.

Hsiao has kept such close tabs local issues that Taiwanese media has scarcely covered her expertise in foreign affairs. In fact, she never fully averted her gaze from the international scene. 

For instance, in April 2019, Hsiao made keynote remarks on the U.S.-Taiwan relations in the context of increasing pressure from China at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank in international affairs. 

In this past February, Hsiao accompanied Vice President William Lai Ching-te on a trip to the U.S. to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. 

Hsiao had been appointed as an adviser to the National Security Council on April 1.


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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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