Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

Tsai Ing-wen urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

  • Tsai Ing-wen urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values
  • Against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “constrain” China by standing up for freedoms, casting her island’s giant neighbor as a global threat to democracy.
Her comments in an exclusive interview with AFP on Monday come as Taiwan faces what Tsai called “immense pressure” from Beijing.
She urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values.
“This is not just Taiwan’s challenge, it is a challenge for the region and the world as a whole, because today it’s Taiwan, but tomorrow it may be any other country that will have to face the expansion of China’s influence,” Tsai said.
“Their democracy, freedom, and freedom to do business will one day be affected by China,” Tsai added.
“We need to work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.”
Her comments come after a sustained period of aggression from China toward Taiwan, which Beijing believes is part of mainland territory, to be reunified by force if necessary.
Self-ruling Taiwan is a democracy and sees itself as a sovereign country, although it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
An increasingly hardline President Xi Jinping has made it clear that what he sees as threats to China’s territorial integrity will not be tolerated.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai as her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence.
Since she took office in 2016, Beijing has ramped up military drills near the island and has successfully pressured some major international companies to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.
It has also exerted diplomatic pressure by ensuring Taiwan is excluded from major international forums and wooing away some of its few remaining official allies.
Tsai said China should “be aware of their own responsibility” in the region and “engage in conversation with Taiwan.”
Countries both around the region and further afield have expressed concern over China building military facilities on remote islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing has also been seeking to extend its power with its globe-spanning Belt and Road infrastructure project, which aims to connect the world’s second-largest economy with Africa, Asia and Europe through a vast network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.
But despite escalating tensions, Tsai said she would still “be willing” to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“Of course, I hope that during my term as president, there is a chance for both sides to sit down and talk,” Tsai said.
She added she would meet Xi on an equal footing and with no political pre-conditions, a position she has long taken.
However, Beijing insists Tsai must agree that Taiwan is part of “one China” in order for any meeting to take place, which she has refused to do.
Tsai said the recent summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had “provided a lot to think about.”
“Their two countries are very far apart in terms of cultural values and other aspects, as well as the positions they hold,” said Tsai.
“But they were able to sit down and talk on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect in Singapore. I think this was a positive development for the international community.
“It is also an encouragement for countries that are at odds with one another.”
With its number of official allies dwindling to 18 as Beijing lures them away, Taiwan is now trying to forge new friendships.
Its most powerful ally is the United States, which is its major arms supplier even though it does not have formal diplomatic relations with the island.
Tsai said Taiwan had seen growing support from the United States, where Congress recently passed bills paving the way for higher level official visits, and recommending greater US-Taiwan military exchanges. The US State Department also approved a preliminary license for sensitive submarine technology, riling Beijing.
The warming relationship comes as Taiwan tries to boost its homegrown defense force.
“In the face of China’s threats, we feel the need for us to improve self-defense capabilities,” she said.
Tsai said Taiwan is looking to bolster ties with “like-minded” countries.
But against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle.
“Of course, there are times when we feel frustrated, but the Taiwanese people do not have the option of giving up,” she said.


Thailand seeks control over movies about cave ordeal

Updated 2 min 25 sec ago
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Thailand seeks control over movies about cave ordeal

BANGKOK: Thailand’s military government wants to control how movies portray the ordeal of the young soccer players and their heroic rescue from a flooded cave that drew worldwide interest and the attention of foreign filmmakers.
Culture Minister Vira Rojpochanarat said he will propose at next week’s Cabinet meeting that a special committee be established to oversee the production of films, documentaries and videos related to the experiences of the 12 boys and their coach who were trapped in a cave for almost three weeks before being rescued.
With the boys returned home, attention has turned to how the media is handling the post-rescue story. There has been criticism of several news outlets, mostly foreign, who are considered to have ignored official advice to leave the boys alone for at least a month to try to avoid psychological stress that recounting their ordeal might trigger.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Friday he had instructed officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to make sure the young soccer players and those associated with them are not bothered while they are going through a period of mental rehabilitation.
He said the foreign media “may not know the consequences of our child protections laws. Even if unintentional, but if guilty, we can conduct legal proceedings against foreigners.” Wissanu, who is considered the top legal expert for Thailand’s ruling junta, said the boys are protected by child protection laws and information protection laws.
The rescue, carried out successfully against high odds, was a rare bit of feel-good news from Thailand, which has been mired in political conflict and heavy-handed military rule for more than a decade. Even as the world watched the cave saga, a boat sinking off a southern resort island claimed almost 50 Chinese tourists, an event that normally would have registered as a high-profile debacle.
The cave rescue also allowed the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has been criticized for political maneuvering to stay in power after elections planned for next year, to share in some glory.
The government’s Thailand Film Office already regulates the production of films shot in Thailand by foreign companies, including vetting scripts and issuing filming permits, but Vira said the committee would oversee content, licensing and the protection of privacy of the rescued team and their families.
Vira, speaking after a film board meeting Thursday chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu, said five foreign film production companies have shown interest in making a movie or documentary about the cave rescue and some had already been on location to collect information.
Thai film producers have also shown interest but have not yet contacted the government, Vira said.
The boys and coach of the Wild Boars soccer team were released from the hospital on Wednesday and at a news conference described how they got trapped in the cave, and after 10 days cut off from the outside world, were astonished to see two British divers rising from muddy waters and assuring them work was underway to rescue them.
“This (story) has all the right elements,” Vira said. “If you talk about drama associated with filmmaking, it has everything. It has loss as well as jubilation. The content and story it has for filmmaking is very complete. Even if you don’t create additional drama, these events had every flavor.”
Wissanu said that it is the boys’ right to sign contracts for their own benefit, but added that the government committee would provide advice “like a manager,” but without seeking any profit for itself.
He said the government was “very afraid” that some of those close to the ordeal could be coerced to sign contracts “because once a contract is signed, that person can’t do anything else, which is why someone with legal knowledge needs to step in and help.”
Several murals and sculptures have already been commissioned to mark the epic cave adventure. Many focus on Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy SEAL who volunteered to help with the rescue effort and died while diving on a mission to supply the cave with oxygen tanks essential to helping the boys escape. Saman is being treated as a national hero.