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Outgoing Taiwan President says she’s inspired by Dalai Lama’s congratulatory message on her party’s poll victory

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan17’24) – Although her position on the issue of Tibet throughout her two terms has been marked by China-sensitive caution of silence, outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan has lavished gratitude on Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for his congratulations and inspiring message on her party’s Jan 13 poll victory. The election saw her deputy Lai Ching-te elected the country’s President, giving her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party a third consecutive term despite threats of “war or peace” choices dangled by China before the country’s electorate.

Tsai’s expression of gratitude came after the Dalai Lama congratulated her colleague Lai (or William Lai) for winning the presidential elections.

She thanked the Dalai Lama for the inspiring message, recognising the importance of Taiwan’s existence and exercise of democracy.

“Grateful for the congratulations & the inspiring message from the @DalaiLama recognizing the importance of our exercise of democracy in #Taiwan to freedom & dignity worldwide,” Tsai posted on X in response to Dalai Lama’s wishes.

Tsai herself could not stand for election due to term limit while China’s preference was seen to be for the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party candidate Hou Yu-ih or at least the other Beijing accommodating Taiwan People’s Party candidate Ko Wen-je to win the election. The three candidates won 40, 33, and 26 per cent of the votes respectively.

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In his message of congratulations, the Dalai Lama wrote, “observing the exercise of democracy, as has just taken place in Taiwan, is a source of encouragement for all of us who aspire to live in freedom and dignity”.

Aware that China will not be happy with the poll’s outcome, the Dalai Lama also noted: “Good relations between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China are of utmost importance. It is my longstanding conviction that engaging in dialogue is the best way to resolve difficult issues, whether on a local, national or international level.”

And he wished Lai every success in “meeting the challenges that lie ahead in fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the people of Taiwan”.

The Dalai Lama further said: “I have fond memories of the hospitality the people of Taiwan showed me during my visits there, when I was also able to see how firmly rooted democracy has become. The Taiwanese people have not only developed a flourishing, robust democracy, but have also achieved a great deal in terms of economics and education, while at the same time preserving their rich traditional culture.”

President-elect Lai Ching-te, a Harvard educated former physician, has said Jan 13 that he will work to protect his country from continuing threats and intimidation from China.

“I will act by our democratic and free constitutional order in a manner that is balanced and maintains the cross-strait status quo. At the same time, we are also determined to safeguard Taiwan from continuing threats and intimidation from China.”

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Meanwhile China has vent spleen on the Philippines Jan 16, a day after its President Ferdinand Marcos sent Lai a note on his electoral victory. It summoned the Philippine ambassador and warned Manila “not to play with fire,” reported aljazeera.com Jan 16. The two countries have been jousting over contesting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

In a social media post on Jan 15, Marcos told Lai, a staunch opponent of China and its claims to Taiwan, that he looked forward to cooperating.

“The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposes” Marcos’s remarks, Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mao Ning has said, urging Manila to give “a responsible explanation”.

The Philippines’ Foreign Ministry has explained that Marcos’s remarks were a way of recognising the Philippines and Taiwan’s “mutual interests”, including the 200,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on the island.

The Foreign Ministry has sought to make it clear in a statement, “The message of President Marcos congratulating the new president was his way of thanking them for hosting our OFWs and holding a successful democratic process. Nevertheless, the Philippines reaffirms its One China Policy.”

Still, Mao has made it clear that Marcos’s remarks were “a serious breach of the political commitments made by the Philippines to the Chinese side, and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”

“We are telling the Philippine side not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue … and to stop immediately its wrongful words and deeds on Taiwan-related issues and sending wrong signals to separatist forces for Taiwan independence,” she has added.

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