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Beijing’s foes line up in defense of democracy

A web-based seminar on democracy scheduled for next week is set to become a virtual assembly of some of Beijing’s most fierce critics and mortal foes.

The organizer of the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, a two-day event to be held via video on June 18 and 19, has confirmed that US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and his predecessors John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong will be among its keynote speakers to swap ideas and compare notes on defending democracy worldwide.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Tsai, the first to speak on the second day of the event, would highlight Taiwan’s feat in squashing the Covid-19 epidemic as well as its success story about democratization.

On the official website of the summit, Tsai is referred to as the President of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name. The upcoming webinar will be her first international summit after she was sworn in for her second four-year term last month. The island’s Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, was invited to attend last year and paved the way for Tsai’s participation.

Beijing is yet to respond, but its embassy in Copenhagen is likely to lodge objections to the event with the Danish side, given Beijing’s imperative to browbeat any international presence of the self-governed island that it regards as a renegade province.

Taiwanese papers say the event will mark a new high in Tsai’s “Covid-19” diplomacy to lift the island’s profile globally and counter Beijing’s subjugation, on the strength of the island’s exemplary work to fight off the coronavirus and generous donations of medical supplies to the US and Europe.

Normally, it would be unlikely for Tsai to fly to Copenhagen to share the same rostrum with other speakers as Denmark has diplomatic ties with China, yet the pandemic has given the Taiwanese leader a chance to join the seminar remotely, like all other participants.

It is also said that Tsai will only deliver a pre-recorded video address, but another source within the island’s Foreign Ministry said she would not squander her rare moment in the international spotlight with just a recording.

Also, all eyes will be on Joshua Wong, the face of Hong Kong’s rebelling youngsters, when he takes part in a panel discussion and gives his account of the situation in his city as a Beijing-decreed national security law looms.

The 24-year-old chief of Demosisto, a Hong Kong political outfit advocating self-determination, will take part in a 30-minute dialogue with a moderator in a session about “fighting for democracy – from the battlegrounds of Hong Kong,” alongside former NATO chief and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who founded the forum in 2017.

Other notable speakers include former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana and Microsoft president Brad Smith.

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