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Taiwan's leader urges more nations to press China over Hong Kong

[TAIPEI] Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to speak out against Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong while boasting that she leads a "bastion of democracy" in the Indo-Pacific region.

"Our 23 million people have the right to determine our own future, which is the antithesis of the approach Beijing has taken," Ms Tsai told an online event hosted by the Washington-based Hudson Institute. She praised the US and the UK for speaking out against China's actions, while calling on more nations to do so.

Ms Tsai's remarks on Wednesday come days after US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar traveled to the island, the most senior visit by an American official in more than four decades. During the visit, Mr Azar described Taiwan as "an inspiration to the region and the world" and stressed its "shared democratic values" with the US.

The visit and remarks by Ms Tsai come amid heightened tensions between the US and China over everything from Hong Kong to 5G technology. As Ms Tsai spoke, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo was in Prague blasting the Chinese Communist Party's "campaigns of coercion and control," though he's also said the US intends to stand by the "One China" policy when it comes to China-Taiwan relations.

Speaking in English in a prerecorded message, Ms Tsai repeatedly played to Trump administration talking points on the need for "like-minded" democracies to stand together to protect a "free and open Indo-Pacific."

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Officials in Taipei have raised concern that China may seek to accelerate its plans to gain control over Taiwan after imposing a national security law in Hong Kong widely seen as eroding the city's traditionally separate status from Beijing. Taiwan's defence ministry reported a sharp increase in the number of Chinese military incursions into the island's air defence identification zone in June.

Although Ms Tsai reiterated her willingness to talk with Beijing on the basis of "peace, parity, prosperity, and dialogue," she said the island should be capable of defending itself. She highlighted her efforts to reform Taiwan's military and to develop "asymmetric capabilities" to deter Chinese aggression.

Ms Tsai said that Taiwan's relationship with the US had "never been closer" and expressed her hope that the two sides could speed up progress on a free trade agreement, arguing that it would have "strategic implications" as well as economic benefits.


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