By Nikolaj Skydsgaard
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark’s foreign minister defended democratic values alongside Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday, drawing criticism from China which considers fiercely democratic, self-ruled Taiwan its “sacred” territory.
China has never renounced the use of force to ensure eventual unification with Taiwan, an island it views as a breakaway province. Denmark and all but a handful of countries recognise Beijing over Taipei as part of Beijing’s “one China” policy.
In recent months, China has also stepped up military activities near Taiwan.
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, who said he was preparing a new “value-based” foreign policy and security strategy, denounced as “deplorable” recent sanctions imposed by China against the EU.
“We need to stand firmer, respond faster and stronger, when universal values like human rights and freedom of speech are under pressure,” Kofod said at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit.
The European Union had imposed sanctions on Chinese officials suspected of human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs in farwestern Xinjiang, a charge Beijing denies.
Danish-Chinese relations have improved significantly since 2009, when former state head Lars Lokke Rasmussen met the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, but the Danish government recently drew criticism from parliament for being too passive about Chinese interference in the former British colony of Hong Kong.
China brands the Dalai Lama a dangerous “splittist”, or separatist, and denies Western charges of trying to erase freedoms in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
“We walked a long road to realize the freedoms we enjoy today and we are determined never to surrender these freedoms,” Tsai said during her video speech.
The Chinese embassy in Denmark criticized the event on Monday, saying “anti-China” activities by foreign forces and separatists to promote independence for Taiwan and Hong Kong were “bound to fail”.
Inviting Tsai and Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law to the summit violated “the one-China principle and interferes in China’s internal affairs”, the embassy said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Among those hit by China’ sanctions was the organiser of the summit, the non-profit Alliance for Democracies Foundation, which was founded by ex-NATO Secretary General and former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Other speakers at the event included Belarussian opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Nick Macfie)