The Lithuanian government last month announced that it would donate 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan, at a time when the country was still in a tight spot from an outbreak of the virus.
Ignoring Beijing’s threats and objections, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis, in a pointed remark, said that “freedom-loving people should look out for each other.”
Landsbergis’ words sent me back to 2013, when I was on a group tour of the Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The visit to Lithuania, in particular, was a moving and memorable experience.
I stayed in the country for two days and spent the first day touring the capital, Vilnius.
In the city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, my group noticed a pair of footprints set in stone on the square in front of Vilnius Cathedral.
Our local guide told us that the footprints mark the spot where the first person in the “Baltic chain” stood in 1989, when about 2 million people from the three countries joined hands to peacefully protest in opposition to Soviet Union rule.
The Taiwanese members of our group spontaneously joined hands and began to sing songs in Hoklo, commonly known as Taiwanese, such as She Is Our Treasure or Longing for the Spring Breeze. We expressed hope that one day Taiwan could gain independence, just as Lithuania had.
Next, we took in Gediminas’ Tower, where a documentary about the 1989 protest formed part of an exhibition. From the archive footage, one could see that people of all ages joined together to sing songs and express their desire for freedom. Beside the TV, photographs of the human chain were displayed in a glass cabinet. It was incredibly moving.
We also visited Vilnius University, the largest university in Lithuania. Our guide told us that it dates back to 1579, making it the oldest university of the Baltic states, and one of the oldest in eastern and central Europe. It has produced many of the country’s intellectuals and elites over the years.
The university was so successful that it was closed by order of Russian czar Nicholas I between 1832 and 1919. It was forced to close again during World War II, when Lithuania was occupied by Nazi Germany. Today, the venerable academic institution occupies an important place in Lithuania, and is a living monument to the suffering and hardship endured by its people.
Finally, we visited the Hill of Crosses in the north of the country. The first crosses were erected at the site to commemorate the dead following an unsuccessful rebellion by Lithuanians against the Russian Empire in 1831. Since then, Lithuanian Catholics have regularly made a pilgrimage to the hill to place crucifixes, statues of the Virgin Mary, carvings of Lithuanian patriots and other effigies to pray for peace, and remember those who gave their lives resisting Russia and Germany.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, calling it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.
I remember walking along the narrow path toward the hill, our hearts bursting with reverence and sorrow for the country’s fallen heroes.
Lithuania was the first of the Baltic states to declare independence from the Soviet Union. It became a republic after several centuries of upheaval and adversity. Today, the country faces a future full of hope and optimism.
Lithuania has joined hands with an island nation thousands of kilometers away to support its struggle for freedom and democracy. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, Lithuania and Taiwan can establish even stronger bonds of friendship.
Yeh Sai-ying is a member of the Northern Society.
Translated by Edward Jones
Local media reported earlier this month that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) criticized President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for referring to China as a “neighboring country,” saying that this is no different from a “two-state” model and that it amounts to changing the cross-strait “status quo.” I find it quite impossible to understand why civilized Taiwan continues to tolerate the existence of such a deceitful group that believes its own lies. The relationship between Taiwan and China is the relationship between two countries, and neither has any jurisdiction over the other — this is the undeniable “status quo.” Those who believe in the
With the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, China has remarketed its East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) concerns. Beijing urged the Taliban to make a clean break with the movement and asked the US to blacklist it again. While some are still debating whether the movement exists, it is not the core of the matter because its existence neither justifies China’s Uighur policy nor sheds light on its concerns after the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. Is China really worried, and if so, is it because of the movement? This question needs to be answered. When Chinese officials first acknowledged
On Thursday, China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a regional economic organization whose 11 member countries have a combined GDP of US$11 trillion. That is less than China’s 2019 GDP of US$14.34 trillion, so why is China so eager to join? China says there are two main reasons: To consolidate its foreign trade and foreign investment base, and to fast-track economic and trade relations between China and member countries of the CPTPP free-trade area. China’s bilateral trade with these countries grew from US$78 billion in 2003 to US$685.1 billion last year, mostly because of China’s 2005
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) talked on the telephone on Thursday last week, the first time the two leaders have done so since Biden assumed the presidency. While each side sought to put their own gloss on the content of the conversation, some common ground did emerge. Biden reportedly said that both sides have a joint responsibility to ensure that competition between the US and China does not spiral into conflict and that there is no reason that the two nations are destined to fall into this trap. The day after the phone call, the Financial Times reported