Taiwan elections important for people of China: ex-US official

Incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen won a second four-year term in office after defeating her main competitor, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu . (CNA)
Incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen won a second four-year term in office after defeating her main competitor, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu . (CNA)

WASHINGTON (CNA) — Taiwan’s successful presidential election is an important example for the people of China who look forward to having the same right to hold democratic elections, a former senior U.S. official said Saturday.

Speaking during a seminar on the results of Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections, Randall Schriver, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said Taiwan is not the only country in the Indo-Pacific region to face pressure from Beijing ahead of elections.

Taiwan’s successful experience in holding its latest elections in the face of Chinese pressure is a “great inspiration” as other countries prepare for their own elections, said Schriver, who now serves as chair of the U.S.-based think tank Project 2049 Institute.

“I think this (holding a successful election in Taiwan) is important for the entire region, frankly I think it is also important for the people of China,”he continued.

“Every time Taiwan succeeds in its own election, people in China pay attention and ask themselves the question; why they can’t have the same privilege and rights,” he said.

He continued to say that Taiwan’s example will be one of the leading factors in promoting change in China should one day Beijing decide to open to democracy.

“So someday there may be a different kind of China, and I am sure that Taiwan’s example is going to be on the leading edge of what promotes that change,” he noted.

Incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) won a second four-year term in office after defeating her main competitor, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Kuomintang (KMT), by a wide margin, in Saturday’s presidential election in Taiwan.

Her ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also held onto its majority in the Legislature during the legislative elections held on the same day, giving it a clear path to maintaining complete control of the government for the next four years.

Commenting on the election results, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Richard Bush expressed hope that the Chinese government will reflect on what this election means for its Taiwan policies during the same seminar in Washington Saturday.

AIT represents U.S. Interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

“If they (China) seriously reflect on it, then maybe they would consider an approach that is different from ‘one country, two systems,’ that’s more appropriate to the reality of Taiwan,” Bush told reporters on the sideline of the seminar.

However, Bush admitted that he does not think Beijing will do that but instead will continue to toughen its stance against Tsai and the DPP by strengthening its coercions on multiple fronts toward Taiwan, as it has been doing since Tsai assumed office in May 2016.

Beijing has taken a hardline stance on cross-strait relations since Tsai refused as president to accept the “1992 consensus,” a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the KMT government of Taiwan and the Chinese government.

Under the consensus, both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is only “one China” with each side free to interpret what “China” means, according to the KMT interpretation. Beijing, however, has never publicly recognized the second part of that interpretation.

Meanwhile, in Taipei, President Tsai on Sunday morning met with AIT Director Brent Christensen to reassure the de facto U.S. ambassador that bilateral relations will continue to improve in her second term .

Christensen congratulated Tsai at winning re-election on behalf of the U.S. government and said the U.S. and Taiwan are close partners bound by shared democratic values and will continue to enhance two-way exchanges in years to come.

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