US democracy invite slammed as 'cover'

Top News | AGENCIES 25 Nov 2021

The Biden administration has invited Taiwan to its "Summit for Democracy" next month, according to a list of participants, in a move that infuriated China.

The first-of-its-kind gathering is a test of President Joe Biden's assertion, announced in his first foreign policy address in office in February, that he would return the United States to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.

There are 110 participants on the State Department's invitation list for the virtual event on December 9 and 10, which aims to help stop democratic backsliding and the erosion of rights and freedoms worldwide. The list does not include China or Russia.

Taipei would be represented by Digital Minister Audrey Tang and Hsiao Bi-khim, its de facto US ambassador. The invitation is "an affirmation of Taiwan's efforts to promote the values of democracy and human rights over the years," it added.

"Through this summit, Taiwan can share its democratic success story," presidential office spokesman Xavier Chang said.

The foreign ministry in Beijing said it was "firmly opposed" to the invite.

"US actions only go to show democracy is just a cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests," ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Sharp differences over Taiwan persisted during a virtual meeting this month between Biden and President Xi Jinping.

While Biden reiterated long-standing US support for the "one-China" policy, he also said he "strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," the White House said.

Rights groups question if the summit can push those world leaders who are invited, some accused of harboring authoritarian tendencies, to take meaningful action.

The State Department list shows the event will bring together mature democracies like France and Sweden but also countries such as the Philippines, India and Poland, where activists say democracy is under threat.

In Asia, US allies such as Japan and South Korea were invited, while Thailand and Vietnam were not. Other notable absentees were US allies Egypt and Turkey. Representation from the Middle East will be slim, with Israel and Iraq the only two countries invited.

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