China is making Taiwan’s political life increasingly difficult, pressuring the democratic country to accept conditions that would see it turn into the “next Hong Kong,” Taiwan’s foreign minister told visiting U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday.
Health Secretary Azar is the highest-level U.S. cabinet official to visit Taiwan since 1979; he arrived on the island on Sunday in direct defiance of Beijing, which opposes any official interaction between Taiwan and the U.S.
“Our life has become increasingly difficult as China continues to pressure Taiwan into accepting its political conditions, conditions that will turn Taiwan into the next Hong Kong,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said at a joint press conference with Azar in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.
In June, Beijing imposed a so-called “national security” law on Hong Kong, severely undermining its traditional semi-autonomy. A sovereign, democratic island, Taiwan is regarded by Beijing as a renegade Chinese territory that it has threatened to seize by force one day. To this aim, China bullies the small island both politically and militarily.
Wu said Taiwan was lucky to count on allies like the U.S. who support the island in its fight against Chinese oppression.
“We know this is not just about Taiwan’s status, but about sustaining democracy in the face of authoritarian aggression. Taiwan must win these battles so democracy prevails,” Wu said.
Taiwan’s successful self-governance is demonstrated by its low coronavirus caseload. The island is home to 23 million people but has recorded just 477 cases and seven deaths from the Chinese coronavirus so far. U.S. Health Secretary Azar has visited Taiwan’s government this week in part to learn from its expert handling of the virus.
Taiwan learned of the Chinese coronavirus’s emergence from China earlier than most, owing to its close proximity to the Communist nation and a dedicated agency to monitor public health threats, created after the SARS coronavirus outbreak in China in 2003. The island reacted to emerging reports of the new coronavirus swiftly, shutting its borders to Chinese and other foreigners in March.
Taiwan also tried to warn the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) in December that the then-emerging virus was likely highly contagious. The U.N. health body ignored Taiwan’s warnings and instead promoted Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda on social media falsely claiming there was no evidence of human-t0-human transmission of the virus as late as January 14.