AP

Taiwan ruling party’s new chair vows to safeguard democracy

Jan 17, 2023, 10:32 AM | Updated: Jan 18, 2023, 1:32 am

Taiwan's Vice President Lai Ching-te speaks during a press conference at the Democratic Progressive...

Taiwan's Vice President Lai Ching-te speaks during a press conference at the Democratic Progressive Party's headquarters after being sworn in as the party's chairman in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. The new head of Taiwan's ruling party who described himself as pro-independence vowed to uphold the self-ruled island's democracy in face of China's authoritarianism and continue with policies that have defined relations with China and the U.S. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

(AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The new head of Taiwan’s ruling party who described himself as pro-independence vowed to uphold the self-ruled island’s democracy in face of China’s authoritarianism and continue with policies that have defined relations with China and the U.S.

Lai Ching-te, who currently serves as Taiwan’s vice president, on Wednesday assumed the new role of the Democratic Progress Party chair.

He won the internal party vote on Sunday and took over for the interim chair, after President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as party chair when the DPP suffered a big loss in the mayoral races across Taiwan in November. Lai is also expected to be the party’s candidate in the 2024 presidential elections.

“Facing China’s threat in the future, our new mission is to guard Taiwan, promoting Taiwan’s democracy, peace and prosperity,” said Lai, a long-time politician who once served as mayor of the southern city of Tainan. “Peace is something everyone hopes for.”

Observers will be watching out for how Lai handles China and U.S. relations if he does become the presidential candidate.

Lai had described himself as a “political worker who advocates for Taiwan independence” when he was serving in Tsai’s Cabinet in the previous administration, but that did not preclude extending a “hand of friendship” to China.

He is likely to continue Tsai’s foreign policy by working closely with Japan and the United States, said Kao-cheng Wang, a professor at Tamkiang University and an expert in international relations.

“I think everyone is rather concerned with how he will handle cross-straits relations, because he had called himself a ‘pragmatic worker for Taiwanese independence,'” Wang said. “This has become an important label that has stuck to him.”

In his speech Wednesday, Lai said he would carry on with Tsai’s policy of “four continuances” that concern Taiwan and China, affirm Taiwan’s democratic system and maintain that Taiwan and China do not belong together.

In November, Lai said he takes the phrase of being a Taiwanese independence worker to mean that “Taiwan is not part of China,” which is also in line with Tsai’s publicly stated position.

Taiwan and the mainland have been ruled separately since 1949 following a civil war.

Beijing views Taiwan as a Chinese territory that must be brought under its control, by force if necessary. A string of visits in recent months by foreign politicians to Taiwan, including by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and delegates from the European Union, spurred displays of military might from both sides.

China refuses to acknowledge Taiwanese self-determination or recognize Tsai’s government. The two sides have not had any formal contact since the first of her two terms began in 2016.

Lai has previously served as the head of the Executive Yuan — Taiwan’s Cabinet — and was a doctor practicing internal medicine before joining politics.

“He is an honest politician,” You Ying-lung, a former DPP vice secretary, said of Lai. “He will not play the role of a political risk-taker on cross-straits issues.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

4 days ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

5 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

6 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

6 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

8 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

8 days ago

Taiwan ruling party’s new chair vows to safeguard democracy