Taiwan responds to John McCain Prize controversy involving Canada

04/12/2021 03:36 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, April 12 (CNA) The government will respect the decision of the organizer of the John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service on whether it will award a prize to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said on Monday.

"MOFA believes that if the Halifax International Security Forum (HFX) confers the prize upon President Tsai, it would be an affirmation and honor for both President Tsai and the people of Taiwan in their anti-pandemic efforts and democratic achievements," said MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安).

"However, on the basis of democratic principles and respect for the HFX, Taiwan will respect the HFX’s decision regarding the prize," she added.

The statement was issued after Politico, an American news website, revealed a day earlier that Canada's government has warned the HFX not to give the award to Tsai for fear of provoking Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory.

The John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service is bestowed annually by the HFX to individuals from any country who have demonstrated uncommon leadership in the pursuit of human justice.

The prize was first given to the People of Lesbos in Greece in 2018 for their "valiant actions to rescue refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East" and to the People of Hong Kong the following year for their "brave fight for their rights in the face of oppression from the government of China."

According to Politico, HFX decided to give the prize to Tsai late last year for "standing strong against China's relentless pressure."

However, the Canadian government has threatened to pull support and funding from HFX if the award is given to Tsai, the report said.

HFX Vice President Robin Shepherd was quoted by Politico as saying that Tsai is a well-respected international leader, the first female president of Taiwan, and a strong global advocate for democracy.

"She would certainly be an ideal fit for this award. At this time, we have no further announcements to make," Shepherd added.

Ou said that MOFA has taken note of the relevant reports and pointed out that the HFX has not yet announced the winner of the prize.

She also made it clear that Taiwan-Canada bilateral relations are cordial, saying that Taiwan and Canada are like-minded countries that share values such as democracy, rule of law and human rights.

"Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly recognized Taiwan's democratic system and has endorsed Taiwan's meaningful participation in multilateral international forums," she said.

Ou further said that Taiwan is grateful for Canada's long-standing support of Taiwan's participation in international organizations.

"In line with the shared values of freedom and democracy, Taiwan will continue to maintain close contact and cordial ties with the Canadian government, HFX and other friends from all sectors of Canadian society," she concluded.

(By Emerson Lim)

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