Just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to China in an attempt to improve relations, Taiwan’s top legislative leader was in Washington thanking the U.S. for its support and denouncing Beijing’s “all-out assault on religion” amid a broader government effort to block the Chinese people from enjoying fundamental freedoms and human rights.
You Si-kun, who serves as the speaker of Taiwan’s Parliament, spoke Wednesday at the International Religious Freedom Summit, a bipartisan coalition gathering leaders, nonprofits, and businesses supporting freedom to worship globally.
You’s visit to the nation’s capital is viewed as a bookend to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last summer. In making that trip, the California Democrat defied warnings from both Beijing and the Biden administration that it could undermine U.S. diplomatic relations with China.
You’s trip to Washington was more under the radar but undoubtedly noticed by China’s leaders, who earlier this week warned Pelosi’s successor, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, against visiting Taiwan amid reports the newly installed California Republican is planning his own trip to the island later this year.
You didn’t mince words in his lengthy remarks. He blamed Chinese President Xi Jinping for ushering in a new era of religious persecution, starting in 2014, which includes the detention and forced labor of more than a million Uyghurs, as well as the decadeslong repression of Tibetans and members of the Falun Gong, and efforts to stop millions of Christians from worshiping in underground churches.
Around the globe, many minority religious groups are denied the freedom to worship and live in fear of losing their lives, You said, citing the Muslim Rohingya in Burma and Christians in North Korea.
“And, in China, there is a comprehensive, systematic repression of religion,” the Taiwanese leader told the summit.
Upon assuming power, Xi launched a campaign of repression against Christians who don’t belong to official government-approved churches, You recalled. Chinese police tore down some 1,200 crosses in Zhejiang Province in 2014 alone, he said, and in 2020, 250 crosses were removed in Anhui Province and countless Bibles were confiscated while “sayings of Xi Jinping” replaced the Ten Commandments.
More broadly, You made a case for why protecting Taiwan is important for the United States and other Western countries. He described the travails the country suffered after World War II, when its people lived under martial law and authoritarian control for decades until political reforms in 1986 led to regular elections for its Parliament and president.
“Taiwan thus awoke as does a chrysalis from a long slumber, metamorphosizing into a nation that defends religious freedom and human rights,” he said.
Taiwan, “in a butterfly effect,” shows that “democracy, born from the West, can indeed flourish in Chinese-speaking regions,” You said.
You warned, however, that the threat from China instantly could demolish Taiwan as a beacon of liberty. Freedom House’s 2022 Freedom in the World Report, he noted, ranked Taiwan a perfect score of 4 on protecting religious freedom.
“If Taiwan falls into the sphere of influence of the [Chinese Communist Party], then the beacon of democracy will be destroyed, and China may invade the first island chain, which will cause a threat to the entire world,” he said.
The same day of You’s remarks at the International Religious Freedom Summit, Taiwan’s military scrambled its fighter jets, put its navy on alert, and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations by 43 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships.
China’s show of military force against Taiwan is designed to intimidate the self-governing island, which the communist regime long has claimed it should rightfully control. After Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last August, China responded with a massive show of military force, including air and sea drills, to the Taiwanese government.
Fears are rising that Xi will launch an invasion of Taiwan or seek to exert more economic or military control over the island. While the United States adheres to an ambiguous “one China” policy, which doesn’t officially recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan, the U.S. long has said it would protect the island nation against any military incursion from China.
Over the past two years, Biden and the White House have given conflicting statements suggesting that he would send U.S. troops to help repel a potential Chinese invasion of the island.
House Republicans repeatedly have called out China, with the new Congress establishing a select committee on U.S.-China economic relations as one of its first actions.
Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke at the summit Tuesday and denounced China for its systematic religious persecution.
“They are committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims,” the Texas Republican said. “The stories of forced sterilizations, forced abortions, brainwashing, and even murder are horrifying.”
Samantha Power, who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, speaking at the summit Thursday, called China’s Uyghur genocide a “devastating example” of “wholesale denial of religious freedom.”
Power, U.N. ambassador during President Barack Obama’s second term, also condemned forces worldwide trying to thwart attempts to bring more transparency to totalitarian governments’ persecution of their own people. These kinds of crimes, she said, “come coupled with full campaigns to shield the perpetrators of those crimes.”
“That isn’t helpful to create a culture of accountability, which is what we need when it comes to human rights more broadly,” Powell added.
This article originally was published by RealClearPolitics and distributed via RealClearWire.
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