President Tsai Ing-wen participated in a discussion at Columbia University on July 12. The event, which focused on democracy in Taiwan, was moderated by Columbia professors Andrew Nathan and Jack Snyder and attended by Columbia students, faculty and invited guests.
Tsai arrived in the United States on Thursday amid the objections of China and fraying relations between Beijing and the Trump administration. This was Tsai's first trip as president to New York. Taiwan has an unofficial consular and trade office in the city, but is not a member of the United Nations, though more than a dozen U.N. countries maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Tsai's two-day stop in New York was part of what her office called the "Journey of Freedom, Democracy and Sustainability" tour, and she spoke firmly of the importance of democracy.
“Each day that Taiwan chooses freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law is a day that we drift farther from the influences of authoritarianism," Tsai said. "Taiwan stands as a rare example of a country that has both experienced authoritarianism and championed democracy in the modern age."
Tsai won her party's nomination last month to run for a second four-year term in the 2020 presidential election, which is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2020.
While a group of about 50 pro-Taiwan and pro-China demonstrators gathered outside Columbia's Italian Academy for Advanced Studies where she spoke, the crowd was vocal but calm. Inside the hall, those gathered asked a range of questions about Taiwan’s relations with the U.S. and China.
In closing her remarks, Tsai turned to U.S. President Herbert Hoover: "Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity."