A conservative Brazilian lawmaker published a letter this week he said was a formal threat to his nation’s lawmakers urging them not to congratulate Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on her inauguration.
By Wednesday, Brazilians outraged by the note had flooded the hashtag #VivaTaiwan with tens of thousands of messages supporting the island nation.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanked the lawmaker, Paulo Eduardo Martins, for exposing the attempt to control the behavior of foreign elected officials on the part of the Communist Party. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen also thanked the nation’s “friends in Brazil” for their support.
Communist China is Brazil’s largest trading partner. President Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on a platform of opposing communism and limiting China’s influence in the country but has largely abandoned those promises, instead visiting Beijing last year and signing multiple new bilateral agreements with dictator Xi Jinping, some that actively endanger Brazilian industries.
According to the “One China” policy, no country that accepts the legitimacy of the communist dictatorship in Beijing is allowed to maintain ties with it while also acknowledging the sovereignty of Taiwan, so Bolsonaro’s administration has no official ties with Tsai’s.
Martins – a member of the conservative Social Christian Party representing Paraná, the state where the anti-corruption “Operation Car Wash,” landing the nation’s last socialist president in prison, began – posted a letter allegedly from the Chinese embassy in Brasilia on Twitter.
“In a letter, the Chinese dictatorship’s embassy recommended silence to Brazilian lawmakers regarding the inauguration of the president of Taiwan. An affront,” Martins wrote. “It says we cannot even congratulate the president. Therefore, even though I’m late, I congratulate President Tsai Ing-wen on her inauguration.”
Tsai was sworn in for a second term a week ago Wednesday.
Em carta, a embaixada da ditadura chinesa recomendou o silêncio dos parlamentares brasileiros em relação à posse da presidente de Taiwan. Uma afronta. Diz que não podemos nem felicitar a presidente. Portanto, mesmo com atraso, felicito a presidente Tsai Ing-wen pela posse. pic.twitter.com/fV6TikQ2IG
— Paulo Eduardo Martins (@PauloMartins10) May 25, 2020
The image of the letter Martins posted on Twitter shows a sheet of paper with Chinese Communist Party letterhead and is dated May 13, 2020. In Portuguese, the letter insists, “the question of Taiwan is an internal issue of China’s and related directly to the fundamental interests of the country.”
“On May 20 of this year, an inauguration ceremony was held for Tsai Ing-wen, the local leader of Taiwan, China,” the letter stated, falsely identifying Taiwan as a province under Beijing’s control. “It would be very appreciated if the House of Representatives … would avoid gestures or attitudes that could be prejudicial to the One China Principle, like participating in the inauguration, sending messages of congratulations to Taiwanese authorities, or maintaining official contact with them.”
The “One China Principle” is China’s claim that Taiwan is a province of China. Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is a democratic, sovereign state that has no history of being governed by Beijing.
Responding to Martins’ message, Brazilians in support of Taiwan began circulating the hashtag #VivaTaiwan (“long live Taiwan”), generating over 100,000 messages and making it a top trending topic in the country. By Tuesday morning Taiwanese time, the hashtag was a worldwide trending topic. Many of the responses were images of both the Brazilian and Taiwanese flags and simple messages of congratulations. Others were memes against the Communist Party.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also responded to the incident, stating that the people of Taiwan “sincerely appreciate the friendship & support of Brazil.”
Tsai also issued a statement of gratitude from her personal account.
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) May 26, 2020
Martins replied to the Taiwanese officials with the statement, “defending freedom is always a matter of honor.”
Multiple incidents around the world have surfaced similar to the one highlighted by the Brazilian lawmaker. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IN), for example, noted on Twitter last week that a Chinese embassy official chided him for congratulating Tsai, to which he responded, “so what!?”
We heard from the third highest person in Chinese embassy that they didn’t like my congratulating Taiwan’s democratically elected ldrs + my recent comments being hard on China. so what!?
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) May 21, 2020
A day before Grassley’s note on Twitter, China’s embassy in France publicly challenged a lawmaker congratulating Tsai on Twitter, stating, “Some people must stop challenging the one-China principle.”
Certaines personnes doivent cesser de contester le principe d'une seule Chine. Ce principe est le consensus inébranlable de la communauté internationale. https://t.co/RDKC5whlHJ
— Ambassade de Chine en France (@AmbassadeChine) May 20, 2020
The Chinese government, through its propaganda outlet the Global Times, dismissed the publication of the letter as a “trick to scapegoat China for a rapidly worsening epidemic situation.” Brazil at press time has documented 391,222 cases of Chinese coronavirus and 24,512 deaths, the second-highest official tally in the world after the United States. Rogue states like China, Iran, and Russia are believed to have significantly deflated their counts, however, and likely have higher rates of infection than the South American nation.
The Global Times did not confirm that the letter Martins posted was from the Chinese embassy, but described it as a “document allegedly from” it, without denying that it was legitimate. It then went on to condemn those using the #VivaTaiwan hashtag as “radical anti-China elements in Brazil and on the island.”
Chinese “experts” – regime-approved talking head the Times regularly quotes, predicted that support for Taiwan was “doomed to fail.”
China regularly threatens Taiwan and its allies to accept illegitimate Communist Party sovereignty over the island. Dictator Xi Jinping has exacerbated the violence in his language towards Taiwan since Tsai’s first election to the presidency in 2016. In October, Xi asserted that Taiwan’s supporters would have their “bones ground to powder” if they did not shift their allegiances to China.
This month, the Global Times agitated for “non-peaceful” intervention to end Taiwanese sovereignty, a response to growing public support for Taiwan in light of its successful containment of the Chinese coronavirus at home.