OTTAWA—Straight talk about the issues between Taiwan and China are rare in Canadian political circles.
But the hundreds of people who gathered at the luxurious Fairmont Château Laurier hotel to celebrate Taiwan’s 102nd National Day heard exactly that on Tuesday.
That’s when Taiwan’s ambassador—or representative as he is properly titled given that Canada does not formally acknowledge the country—laid out the stark contrast between the two Chinas on either side of the Taiwan Strait.
C.K. Liu noted that Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China, is a beacon of democracy that offers hope to China’s 1.3 billion people still living under autocratic rule.
Liu gave a brief summary of the Republic of China’s history, which began as the national government of China in 1912 and continued on the island of Taiwan after the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949.
He also summarized the country’s economic growth and successful transition to democracy.
And then he gave one of the bluntest speeches several attendees to the annual event said they can ever remember hearing.
“Mainland China’s sustained growth did not begin until the late ‘70s following a quarter century of disastrous Maoist campaigns,” Liu said.
“And its economic boom has led instead to an apparent resurgence of authoritarian control and repression of democratic forces.”
Democracy has given Taiwan an international dignity that China cannot yet claim, he said.
Liu received applause when he noted that Taiwan has proven that democracy can thrive in a Chinese society.
“Taiwan is exporting democratic values to mainland China, along with its people and capital.”
He said Taiwan’s experience with democracy has been beneficial to China and could be an inspiration for the mainland’s own transformation.
And while he did not mention the military tensions between the two countries, he did hint at the issue at the end of his speech.
Canada ‘a principled country’
That’s when Liu thanked the Canadian government and people for “continued concern and support for the well-being of 23 million people in Taiwan.”
“Canada is a principled country, standing for what is just and right, regardless of whether it is popular or convenient or expedient,” he said.
“Our national day is a day of celebration for all people who believe in democracy and freedom. Your presence tonight displays that you are standing in solidarity and unity with the freedom and democracy that we worked so hard to achieve in Taiwan.”
The brunt of Liu’s comments emphasized the differences between the two Chinas, but he also noted that relations between Taiwan and the mainland have improved, as has trade.
In an interview later, he acknowledged that many Taiwanese businesspeople have faced problems with their investments in China, but he said they have learned from those experiences. Those tough lessons now make Taiwanese businesses ideal partners for Canadians investors looking to enter the mainland Chinese market, he said.
But while Liu focused heavily on the contrast between Taiwan and China, the Canadian officials who spoke after him steered clear of such controversial topics.
Those officials included Treasury Board President Tony Clement and Conservative Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais.
Instead, Canadian officials highlighted trade figures and offered economic platitudes.
Clement focused on Taiwan’s economic development, emerging consumer brands, and its place in global electronics supply chains, as well as the trade relationship between Taiwan and Canada.
He refused to comment on the substance of Liu’s remarks when asked by the Epoch Times on his way out of the event.
Other Conservatives at the event expressed surprise at the bluntness of Liu’s comments.