President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Monday was awarded last year’s John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service in recognition of her leadership in defending Taiwan’s democracy and standing up against Chinese aggression.
The Washington-based Halifax International Security Forum, which announced its decision in a video posted online, said that Tsai was “arguably the most powerful female politician in the Chinese-speaking world” and had helped Taiwan stand up against Beijing’s military coercion and international isolation.
The video also said that under her tenure, Taiwan was the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and it also paid tribute to the nation’s success in containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service, named after late US senator John McCain, is awarded by the forum to individuals from any nation who have demonstrated “uncommon leadership in the pursuit of human justice.”
The 2019 prize was awarded to the people of Hong Kong, where democracy advocates organized protests following plans to pave the way for extraditions to mainland China.
Tsai was awarded the prize despite reports that the Canadian government had warned the organizers that it would pull its funding, apparently due to concerns about angering Beijing.
The forum receives half its funding from the Canadian Department of National Defence.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later denied that the government had issued any such warning, adding that the forum was free to make its own decision and promising that his administration would continue to help fund the non-governmental organization.
The Canadian House of Commons also adopted a unanimous motion saying that Tsai was an ideal candidate for the prize.
In Taipei, Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said in a statement that Tsai was honored to receive the prize, and that it represented the achievements of the whole nation and not her alone.
The nation’s success in preventing the spread of COVID-19 has shown the world that Taiwan can achieve a great deal when the nation is united and that it is a force for good that can contribute to the international community, Chang said.
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