Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan honored with Ottawa-supported award

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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in Kilong on March 8, 2021.

Sam YEH / AFP / Getty Images

An annual security and defense conference financially supported by the federal government has awarded the President of Taiwan its major award for the prospect of Beijing’s development.

The Halifax International Security Forum, which receives half the funding from the Department of National Defense, announced on Monday evening that it was awarding its 2020 John McCain Award to Tsai Ing-wen for leadership in public service.

“Van Tsai is an inspiration and an example for freedom-loving people everywhere”, Peter Van Prague, president of the Halifax Forums, said in an interview.

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“His courage and his luck in defending his people against the aggression of the Chinese Communist Party are exactly the same as the John McCain Prize was created to recognize.”

In 2019, the award was given to the people of Hong Kong, where mass protests followed a plan to pave the way for extradition to mainland China.

The John McCain award was not announced during the forum’s November 2020 proceedings. Last month’s news reports said Ottawa warned the organizers of the Halifax platform that if the money was to be held responsible for fear of offending the Chinese Communist Party, the award would be given to Ms. Tsai.

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later denied that he had tried to strengthen the platform, saying the group was free to make its own decisions about the award. The matter was unanimously led by the House of Commons to adopt a resolution stating that Ms. Tsai was an ideal candidate for the award.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa could not immediately be reached for comment but last month the Chinese government sharply criticized the parliamentary proposal.

“Canada should understand that Taiwan’s question is very sensitive [and] In order to prudently and appropriately handle issues related to Taiwan and avoid further undermining bilateral relations, ”said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Legend.

Ms Tsai won re-election last year after campaigning on a promise to protect the island’s democracy and stand with China. The dictatorial rulers of Beijing considered Taiwan a broken province, despite the fact that the Chinese Communist Party, which had captured power more than 70 years ago, never ruled the island. The Communist Party has not ruled out using force to take control of Taiwan.

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A video announcement released Monday night about the award notes says Ms. Tsai, “the world’s most powerful female politician who speaks Chinese.” It notes that under his tenure the region was the first Asian jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriages. It also pays tribute to Taiwan’s success in fighting COVID-19; As of Monday, only 12 people had died in the area from the virus.

China has been taking steps to isolate Taiwan from the international community over the last half century and, following Ms. Tsai’s re-election in 2020, airspace around the island has been patrolled by war planes, the Taiwan government says It has a very small army built for evacuation.

In 2020, the People’s Liberation Army trimmed a record 380 to enter Taiwan’s air defense detection zone, according to the Taipei-based Institute for National Defense and Security Research. An estimated 280 layoffs have taken place between January 1 and April 30 of this year. Taiwan is required by Chinese combatants or bombers to send their own jets to each forest.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Britain’s Sky News in late April that Taipei was forced to invest heavily in its military when the threat of a Chinese invasion increased. He said that China is “preparing for its last military offensive against Taiwan.”

Mr. van Prague said that at a recent award ceremony, the Halifax stage award will be given to Ms. Tsai.

Winston Chen, Taiwan’s top envoy to Canada, said that democracy of 24 million was a “deep honor” to learn that Ms. Tsai had been selected for the award.

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“Taiwan is the pawn of democracy and a beacon for our shared values ​​on the global stage. We are committed to defending our democratic way of life despite military threats, incursions, and other tactics employed by the military republic, the People’s Republic of China.

Although Mr. Trudeau told the House of Commons last month that Ottawa would like the Halifax Forum to continue, he remained silent on whether his government would officially support Ms. Tsai to award it.

Opposition critics said Ottawa’s actions would be investigated.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said, “Our partners are watching closely to see if the federal government stands for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris said he did not expect the government to withdraw the money as a result of the award.

“This is not something that the government should intervene in any way,” he said. “It is a decision made by the institute and not the government and I believe that the government should remain at arms length.”

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