US, Japan congratulate Tsai as HK visitors laud island's elections

Supporters of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen during a rally outside the Democratic Progressive Party headquarters in Taipei yesterday. Many Hong Kongers had also travelled to Taiwan and attended Ms Tsai's rallies.
Supporters of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen during a rally outside the Democratic Progressive Party headquarters in Taipei yesterday. Many Hong Kongers had also travelled to Taiwan and attended Ms Tsai's rallies.PHOTOS: REUTERS
Kuomintang presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu conceding defeat in the presidential election in Kaohsiung yesterday. Mr Han won 5.52 million votes, or about 39 per cent.
Kuomintang presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu conceding defeat in the presidential election in Kaohsiung yesterday. Mr Han won 5.52 million votes, or about 39 per cent.PHOTOS: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • The United States congratulated Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen for her re-election yesterday, hailing it as a demonstration of the self-ruled island's "robust democratic system".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Ms Tsai for developing a strong partnership with Washington and for her "commitment to maintaining cross-strait stability in the face of unrelenting pressure".

"Under her leadership, we hope Taiwan will continue to serve as a shining example for countries that strive for democracy, prosperity and a better path for their people," he said.

He also congratulated Taiwan "for once again demonstrating the strength of its robust democratic system, which - coupled with a free market economy and a vibrant civil society - makes it a model for the Indo-Pacific region and a force for good in the world".

It is a model that many Hong Kongers are desperate for.

Scores of election tourists travelled to Taiwan to witness something denied to them - universal suffrage.

"We want to have elections like this," said Hong Konger Karen Leung, one such tourist, at a rally for Ms Tsai.

In the days leading up to yesterday's presidential and parliamentary elections, Hong Kongers were an increasingly common sight at her rallies.

"I feel like there is hope here (in Taiwan)," Ms Leung, a 26-year-old accountant said.

"Taiwan has its freedom and it is standing up to China," she added.

Hong Kong's democracy activists have long maintained close ties with Taipei.

Months of violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have intensified Taiwanese interest.

The phrase "Today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan" has become a popular slogan among supporters of Ms Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Kyle, a 26-year-old Hong Konger at Ms Tsai's Friday night rally, said he took inspiration from how Taiwan shook off its own dictatorship under Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and has also resisted pressure from Beijing's communist leadership.

"The people of Taiwan bled and even sacrificed their lives until they had democracy," he said.

"In Hong Kong, we have struggled for only several years in fighting for democracy, so there is no reason for us to give up so quickly," he added.

The island does not recognise the concept of asylum. But under Ms Tsai's administration, officials have turned a blind eye to dozens of Hong Kong activists who have fled there - and Taiwanese supporters have also sent gas masks and helmets to protesters in Hong Kong.

"The movement in the past year has brought Hong Kong and Taiwan closer," Ivy, a 36-year-old social worker who travelled from the city, said.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday that "Japan will work towards further deepening cooperation and exchanges between Japan and Taiwan, based on the existing position to maintain Japan-Taiwan relations as a working relationship on a non-governmental basis".

 
 

"The government of Japan congratulates the smooth implementation of the democratic election and Ms Tsai on her victory again," Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said.

"We expect that the issue surrounding Taiwan will be resolved peacefully by direct dialogue between the concerned parties and that it will contribute to the peace and stability in the region," he added.

Noting that Taiwan is an important partner and a precious friend of Japan, he said both sides share basic values and enjoy a close economic relationship and people-to-people exchange.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 12, 2020, with the headline 'US, Japan congratulate Tsai as HK visitors laud island's elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe