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U.K. parliamentarian praises Taiwan's democracy, world-class whiskey

04/04/2024 10:26 PM
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United Kingdom parliamentarian Lord Leong. CNA photo April 3, 2024
United Kingdom parliamentarian Lord Leong. CNA photo April 3, 2024

Taipei, April 4 (CNA) Visiting United Kingdom parliamentarian Lord Leong praised Taiwan as a beacon of democracy and pledged to help build U.K.-Taiwan ties if his party wins the next general election.

Leong, who chairs the Labour Friends of Taiwan parliamentary group, said during a CNA interview earlier this week that the Labor Party upholds values such as human rights, social justice, and democracy.

"I see Taiwan as a beacon of democracy in this part of the world, and I would like to do whatever I can to share, engage with the Taiwanese people and hopefully get the Labour parliamentarians to also meet with the Taiwanese parliamentarians," said Leong, his parliament's shadow spokesperson on business and trade.

Leong, his party's first House of Lords member of East Asian heritage, said Labour would work to strengthen relations with Taiwan if it triumphs in the UK's next general election.

According to a recent survey in the U.K., the Labour Party is likely to hand the Conservatives a resounding defeat, winning over 400 seats to the latter's 155.

Leong said he and his colleagues are looking forward to a Labour administration.

"And hopefully some of my colleagues that are accompanying me [on my current Taiwan visit], instead of becoming shadow ministers, would become ministers," he added.

Lord Leong. CNA photo April 3, 2024
Lord Leong. CNA photo April 3, 2024

On the question of whether a Labour administration might change the U.K.'s policy on cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, Leong said the U.K. government "acknowledges China's position as far as Taiwan is concerned."

"And we, as a Labour government, would continue with that policy and work very closely to strengthen the people-to-people ties and also to enhance the trade partnership," he said, adding that there are many other potential areas for bilateral cooperation.

"Because of artificial intelligence and cybercrime, we need to have international cooperation, and we look forward to that cooperation with Taiwan," Leong said.

As a parliamentarian who has championed the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in building the economy, he said, he was delighted to see that SMEs dominated the Taiwan economy.

"I would love to see many, many more British businesses work with Taiwanese businesses and actually have joint ventures," he said.

One of the Taiwanese businesses that has captured Leong's interest is the Kavalan Whisky distillery.

During a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Tuesday, Leong mentioned the success of Kavalan Whisky, which burst onto the global stage about 20 years ago.

Kavalan is an example of "how to innovate by learning from others across the globe and establish a vision by blending traditions with modern techniques," Leong said, adding that the business model was an example for him and his Labour Party colleagues.

In the CNA interview, Leong said he has been a fan of Kavalan Whisky since it was first introduced to him by Kelly Hsieh (謝武樵), Taiwan deputy foreign minister and former representative to the U.K.

"It is fantastic; it is there, at the top of the whiskey league," he said, praising the whiskey for its "smoothness and quality".

When asked about his singular role among his party's House of Lords members, Leong said not many British people of east Asian heritage would choose to enter the political arena.

"To a certain extent, that's also cultural," he said. "Because when I was growing up, if I'd told my parents I wanted to get into politics, they would've said, 'what are you talking about? Go and be a doctor, an engineer, an accountant,'" he added.

Lord Leong (left) speaks during his meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (right) at the Presidential Office Thursday. CNA photo April 2, 2024
Lord Leong (left) speaks during his meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (right) at the Presidential Office Thursday. CNA photo April 2, 2024

Leong said people of East Asian heritage need to speak up for themselves in the U.K., which is a very diverse country.

"Because if we don't speak up for ourselves, no one else is going to speak on our behalf," he said. "And in a very diverse community, you have to shout."

"So for me, being the first Labour East Asian peer is a privilege," Leong said. "I hope it doesn't stop with me."

Leong is currently on a one-week visit to Taiwan at the head of a Labour Party parliamentary delegation, from March 30 to April 5.

The delegation included House of Lords Members Lord Grantchester and Lord McNicol, and House of Commons Members Sharon Hodgson, Diana Johnson, Navendu Mishra, and Andrew Western.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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