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William Lai Ching-te urges peace as he becomes Taiwan’s new president | Politics News

Lai takes over as Beijing aggressively asserts its claims to the self-governing island of 23 million people.

Taipei, Taiwan – William Lai Ching-te was sworn in as Taiwan’s president in a ceremony that included a 21-gun salute, as he later praised the self-ruled island’s democracy and urged China to put an end to his “intimidation”.

Lai and Vice President Hsia Bi-khim were sworn in Monday under a portrait of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China (ROC), as Taiwan’s government is officially known, during a ceremony at the Taiwan Presidential Building. Taipei.

The 64-year-old received from the Speaker of Parliament two seals symbolizing presidential power: one, the seal of the Republic of China, and the other, a seal of honor. Both were brought to the island by the Nationalists in 1949 after losing the Chinese Civil War to the Communists.

Outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen also bid farewell during the ceremony, signing off after eight years and a maximum of two terms.

Addressing crowds gathered outside the presidential building, Lai highlighted the significance of May 20 – the day in 1949 when martial law was imposed and also the day in 1997 when Taiwan’s first popularly elected president took office oath – “a signal to the international community”. that the Republic of China, Taiwan, is a sovereign and independent nation whose sovereignty rests with the people.”

He stressed that Taiwan would not make any concessions on its democracy and freedoms and called on Beijing to “end its aggression against Taiwan” and strive to “maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the region, ensuring that the world is free from the fear of war.” .”

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own and does not rule out the use of force to achieve its objectives. Throughout Tsai’s two terms in office, the party has sent military planes and ships near the island and has continued to do so since Lai, whom it considers a “separatist” and a “troublemaker.” , emerged victorious in the January elections.

Representatives from 29 countries attended the ceremony Monday, including those from Taiwan’s remaining 12 diplomatic allies in the Pacific, Central America and the Holy See.

William Lai Ching-te during his inauguration ceremony.  There is a flag of Taiwan on the wall and a portrait of Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China.  with large displays of pink orchids on either side.  Lai bows when he receives a document from an official.
The ceremony took place in Taiwan’s presidential building, built when the island was a Japanese colony (Taiwan Presidential Office via AFP)

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in attendance, as were former Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and representatives from foreign “economic” or “trade” offices that serve as de facto diplomatic missions for countries with formal ties to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a congratulatory message and said Washington looked forward to working with Lai to “deepen our long-standing unofficial relations and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”


Besides dignitaries, members of the public and party supporters were also present at the festivities, which included a military parade and traditional drumming and dancing performances celebrating Taiwan’s cultural heritage.

Lisa Wu returned to Taiwan from Los Angeles with her family to attend the ceremony and was seated among supporters of Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party.

Wu said she admired Lai, the son of a coal miner who later earned his medical degree, describing him as a “sincere” political leader. She had already returned from the United States to vote for him in the January elections.

Ceremonial guards parading during the inauguration ceremony.  Some wear white uniforms and others in blue.  They carry rifles with bayonets
Members of the honor guard take part in the inauguration ceremony of new Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Sitting in a section reserved for supporters of Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party, Wu said she left Taiwan 50 years ago to find better opportunities in the United States. At the time, ethnic Taiwanese from families predating the arrival of the Republic of China government had fewer opportunities, but the distinction has blurred in contemporary Taiwan.

Wu said she has returned to Taiwan since 2000, shortly after Taiwan’s transition to democracy, and has voted in every presidential election.

Samantha Yu, president of the World Federation of Chinese Businesswomen, also returned from California to attend the event.

“It’s a really special day,” Yu told Al Jazeera. “For democracy right now, we are very worried about the possibility of China trying to attack us and protecting our island and democracy is so important. I was born here and currently live in the United States and I really hope that people here can continue to enjoy democracy.

Miffy Jiang attended the ceremony dressed in traditional clothing from the Atayal indigenous group.

A giant effigy of a blue horse with a rainbow mane participating in the inauguration ceremony.  A little blue horse is on one side and there are crowds behind
The festivities included a parade with a giant blue horse (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Jiang said that although she is not Atayal herself, she wanted to raise awareness and increase the visibility of Taiwan’s 12 indigenous groups.

“Even though I am not an indigenous person, I feel that indigenous people are also part of our family and therefore should be equally considered,” she said. “We have some differences with them historically, but from my point of view, we still think that they and their communities are historically part of Taiwan. »

There was no immediate comment in Chinese state media on Lai’s inauguration.

In an article published before the ceremony, the official Global Times tabloid called Lai a “regional leader.”

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