Tue, Jul 16, 2019 - Page 13 News List

New York, New York!

More than 1,000 supporters greet Tsai Ing-wen on her first trip to the Big Apple as president

By Chris Fuchs  /  Contributing reporter in New York

More than 1,000 Tsai Ing-wen supporters turned out at the Grand Hyatt New York Friday night for Tsai’s first trip to New York as president. She told attendees Taiwan’s government “will resolutely defend our freedom, democracy and way of life.”

Photo courtesy of Darren Yang

For much of his life, Lai Hong-tien (賴弘典) has fought to improve Taiwan’s visibility on the international stage.

A recently retired dentist, Lai came to the US in 1967 as a student, was allegedly blacklisted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government during martial law and later founded a group that promotes Taiwan’s membership in the UN.

Now in his late 70s, Lai got to witness something last week that he said showed him just how strong relations have grown between the US and Taiwan — President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) two-night transit in New York City over the strenuous objections of China.

“This is an achievement of President Tsai,” Lai said before the start of a dinner banquet on Friday at the Grand Hyatt New York, where Tsai addressed around 1,070 attendees.

Excitement was palpable over Tsai’s visit, part of a larger 12-day journey to four Caribbean diplomatic allies, as supporters waited to take their seats in the Empire State Ballroom and listen to the president speak.

Tsai told the audience, which included members of the US Congress, that Taiwan is determined to safeguard its sovereignty and that Taiwan’s government “will resolutely defend our freedom, democracy and way of life.”

“Freedom is irrevocably ingrained in every aspect of our lives, in our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and most certainly, the freedom to run for office and exercise our right to vote,” Tsai said to applause.

Christina Hu (胡若涵), a civic engagement director with the nonprofit Taiwanese American Citizens League, called Tsai’s appearance in the US “quite miraculous.”

“It’s something that everybody else takes for granted, that they have their president that can visit,” she said. “For us, it has not been something that we can take for granted.”

PUSH BACK

Beijing fumed over Tsai’s transit in New York, her first-ever as president.

“We urge the US to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US Joint Communiques, not allow Tsai Ing-wen’s transit and stop the official exchange with Taiwan,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said at a daily briefing Friday.

The Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, also accused the US of “using Taiwan as a card against the Chinese mainland,” claiming Tsai’s transit through America was related to the US-China trade war.

“Tsai is nothing more than a puppet controlled by Washington,” the newspaper declared in a July 12 article.

After visiting the four Caribbean allies, Tsai is expected to stop for two nights in Denver, Colorado, before heading home.

Back in New York, across the street from the Grand Hyatt near Manhattan’s iconic Grand Central Station, pro-Beijing demonstrators assembled by the hundreds on Thursday and Friday.

The New York Police Department corralled them behind metal barricades where they waived Chinese and American flags, shouted slogans in Mandarin and held up signs including one that said “Taiwanese Independence Is A Dead End” (台獨是死路一條).

“I feel that’s ridiculous, really ridiculous, because Taiwan is Taiwan, obviously,” said Kiki Lee Park (李翌琦), New York Metro chapter regional director of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (台灣人公共事務會), referring to the protests.

Video posted online appeared to show some pro-China demonstrators on Thursday scuffling with Taiwan supporters outside the hotel. At least one man appeared to be taken into police custody.

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