More than a score of US Congress members attended a Wednesday night reception to welcome Democratic Progressive Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to Capitol Hill.
Veteran observers of the US-Taiwan scene said that it was the most enthusiastic and warm reception they could remember for a Taiwanese visitor.
“The atmosphere was utterly new, everyone was talking about how the attitudes in Washington have completely changed,” one guest said.
“Dr Tsai had a look of confidence and satisfaction — congressmen and women were bubbling,” he added.
Despite a busy agenda and on-going vote in the US House of Representatives, members lined up to shake Tsai’s hand and complement her on becoming the DPP’s presidential candidate for the January elections.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and ranking member Eliot Engel both made short speeches saying how pleased they were to see Tsai in Washington.
While it was not clear exactly how many members actually came to the reception — 16 made public remarks — more than 30 had said they planned to be there.
Former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen praised Tsai and her “quest to keep Taiwan free.”
The freedom of Taiwan had been continuously threatened for decades by “an oppressive and brutal” communist regime in China, Ros-Lehtinen said.
“China is making its hegemonic ambitions crystal clear as it rapidly ramps up its military spending, creates new islands in the South China Sea, and attempts to assert dominance in the region,” she said.
“We in the United States need to do more to support our ally Taiwan and make sure it is able to resist any type of Chinese aggression or coercion,” she added.
Ros-Lehtinen presented Tsai with a miniature of the Statue of Freedom that stands atop the US Capitol’s dome.
The reception was held in a congressional chamber provided by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and it was hosted by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
“Taiwanese Americans are eternally grateful for the support from members of Congress who have given us the hope that we will never walk alone even in the darkest night,” association president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said.
He said that like US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Taiwanese Americans had a dream.
“Our dream is that Taiwan can move out of the international isolation imposed on it by the outdated One China policy and be accepted as a full and equal member in the international community,” Kao said.
“Taiwan is a free and democratic nation state and should be treated as a normal country like all other countries,” he said. “Together we work to enhance US-Taiwan relations, to sustain Taiwan’s democracy and freedom, and to ensure that the people on the island have a free choice on their future.”
“We believe that a free and democratic Taiwan will enhance regional stability and be in the best interests of the US,” he said.
In a short address, Tsai thanked the US Congress for all of its support and promised that if she was elected she would work tirelessly to enhance relations with the US.