Former Estonian president praises Taiwan for upholding freedom, democracy

Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and President Tsai Ing-wen,
Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and President Tsai Ing-wen, Source: Office of the President of Taiwan

Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves praised Taiwan on Wednesday during a visit to the country for upholding freedom and democracy, local media reported

Ilves said Taiwan shows these values are universal rather than exclusive to Western societies, during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen.

"One of the signature roles of Taiwan these days is to show the fallacy — the fallacy of the idea propagated by Russia, by the PRC [People's Republic of China] and recently also Malaysia — that Asian values are incompatible with the concepts of freedom, liberty [and] individual rights. And that is why it is so good to come to Taiwan to see proof that there are universal values," he was quoted as saying by the Taipei Times website.

Democratic movements and the fight for liberty in the world over the past few decades have "disproved" the argument of many authoritarian regimes that certain civilizations do not need to respect human rights or protect the rights of the individual, Ilves said.

Ilves' comments also echoed his keynote speech given at the Ketagalan Forum-2022 Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue in Taipei on Tuesday, Focus Taiwan wrote.

The growth of cyber threats has led to one dramatic change in the security issue, which is that "geography no longer matters," Ilves said.

However, NATO, for example, represents only a regional bloc, and it excludes other liberal democracies like Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, he said.

"All of this leads me to argue that we need a digital alliance like NATO but one that is really and truly value-based, that includes all liberal democracies that wish to be a part of it, and is not bound by geography, but by shared values," Ilves said.

Ilves's speech can be watched below.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves was President of Estonia between 2006-2016 and was not representing Estonia in an official capacity during his visit to Taiwan.

Taiwan is a self-ruled island, roughly 100 miles from the coast of southeast China.

China views the island as a breakaway province that will eventually be part of the country again. But Taiwan sees itself as an independent country, with its own constitution and democratically-elected leaders.

Estonia communicates with China and has relations with Taiwan within the "One China Policy" framework. Estonia also has additional relations with Taipei in the economic and cultural sectors.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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