By Tina Chung

WASHINGTON — The president of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan is calling China’s response to the possibility of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s visiting Taiwan “excessive,” saying that exchanges between Taiwan’s unicameral legislature and the legislatures of the United States, Europe, Japan, and other countries are the norm in democracies.

Washington’s Punchbowl News, which specializes in political news, reported on January 23, citing officials familiar with the matter, that the Pentagon was making preliminary preparations for McCarthy’s travels this year, including a visit to Taiwan this spring. Because former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August triggered China’s large-scale military drill focused on Taiwan, planning for McCarthy’s visit would need to consider China’s possible response as well as more routine security and logistical arrangements.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Monday, “China opposes any form of official interaction between its Taiwan region and countries having diplomatic ties with China. We hope U.S. lawmakers will abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués and refrain from doing things detrimental to China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” China sees self-governing Taiwan as a rebellious province.

You Si-kun, who was in Washington to deliver a speech on Taiwan’s democratic journey at the 2023 International Religious Freedom Summit (IRFS) on Wednesday and the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday said after the first event that Beijing’s reactions “are very excessive. Sometimes they [China] say they are a democratic country, but in a democratic country, congressional exchanges are very normal. Their reaction, on the contrary, proves that they are not a democratic country.”

He continued, “Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan maintains very close communication with the U.S. Congress and American executive officials. Not only that, but Taiwan also maintains close communication with the European Congress and Japan. Any communication or visits by U.S. congressional members or the speaker to Taiwan is very normal in democratic politics.”

He also stressed Taiwan’s strategic importance at the center of key global sea lanes and as an important producer of semiconductors.

“So it’s very important to safeguard Taiwan, especially its democracy,” he said.

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Photo Credit: AFP via Getty Images

President of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, You Si-kun gives a statement to the press at the Senate of the Parliament in Prague, Czech Republic, on July 20, 2022.

“If Taiwan falls into the sphere of influence of CCP, then the beacon of democracy will be destroyed. And China may invade the first island chain, and will cause a threat to the entire world,” You said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party and its ambitions in the Pacific region.

You said China will react to whatever Taiwan does. He said during a recent visit to Europe, the Chinese embassies protested his presence at each stop because if they hadn’t, they would “be unable to survive or get promoted.”

You told VOA Mandarin that he will continue, as he has since 2018, to advocate in favor of the U.S. recognizing Taiwan and establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan. He said this idea is gaining ground among members of Congress.

There is growing bipartisan support for the U.S. to sign a bilateral trade agreement with Taiwan, and in September, President Joe Biden approved US$1.1 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, a move that China condemned.

At the religious freedom summit, You said Taiwan’s political development has made the island a “beacon of democracy for Chinese-speaking peoples.” He contrasted that with sentiment attributed to former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, holding that “human rights and democracy are imported from the West and not suitable for Asian countries.”

“Taiwan has shown that democracy, born of the West, can indeed flourish in Chinese-speaking regions,” You said.

During his speech, You criticized the CCP’s persecution of religious minorities and said the international community should pay attention to China’s lack of religious freedom, because it’s the cornerstone of human rights and the core of democratic values.

Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s representative to the U.S. who accompanied You, said exchanges between Taiwan’s Yuan and other countries’ legislatures have been going on for decades, and are in line with international standards.

Hsiao also said it is important to keep peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“The people of Taiwan — and I believe the people of the U.S. as well — feel strongly that our freedom and democracy must be guaranteed. We need an environment of peace, an environment that does not allow the use of force to change the status quo. I think that is a very important part in our common interest.”

The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Voice of America.

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