A delegation of EU lawmakers arrived in Taipei on Wednesday to send a “strong signal of support for Taiwanese democracy”, according to group leader Raphael Glucksmann, in a move that will likely irk Beijing.
Glucksmann, a French national who headed up the team of seven parliamentarians, said on Twitter that it was the first delegation the EU legislature had ever sent to the self-governing island, which China claims as part of its territory.
Welcoming the party at the start of the three-day trip, Taiwanese premier Su Tseng-chang said that his country was a democracy situated in the front line against the Chinese authoritarian regime.
Su also accused Beijing of using authoritarian methods to control people and of spreading disinformation.
The delegation is also to be received by President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday and is to focus on Taiwanese experiences in fighting disinformation, according to a statement from the European Parliament.
Tsai said Wednesday she looked forward to welcoming the group, and the foreign ministry hailed the visit as “significant.”
It comes after the EU legislature drew the ire of China with a report on EU-Taiwan relations adopted on October 20. The document expressed concern over China’s continued military belligerence, assault exercises, airspace violations and disinformation campaigns against Taiwan.
Beijing immediately condemned the report. The foreign ministry called on the legislature to “immediately stop its words and deeds that undermined China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Glucksmann, among other European lawmakers and scholars, was placed under tit-for-tat Chinese sanctions in March. These followed EU punitive measures related to China’s treatment of its mostly Muslim Uighur population.
The French centre-left parliamentarian said on the eve of the Taiwan trip that “neither threats nor sanctions” would ever phase him.
Contacts between EU states and Taiwan have been increasing of late. On Friday, Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu met with some MEPs in an unprecedented trip to Brussels after wrapping up a trip to Slovakia and the Czech Republic.