Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking in Taipei, has delivered the most sweeping critique of China by a former Australian prime minister since diplomatic relations were established between Canberra and Beijing more than 50 years ago.
“Since then, Beijing has torn-up the ‘one country, two systems’ treaty on Hong Kong; put upwards of a million Uighurs into concentration camps; boosted cyber spying on its own citizens; cancelled popular personalities in favour of a cult of the new red emperor; brutalised Indian soldiers in the Himalayas; coerced other claimants in its eastern seas; and flown evermore intimidatory sorties against Taiwan,” Mr Abbott told the Yushan Forum.
“So this year, I’m here, having concluded that China’s belligerence is all self-generated,” he told a high powered audience that included Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and senior Taiwanese security officials.
President Tsai — who the former PM met on Thursday with Australia’s most senior official in Taiwan, Jenny Bloomfield — thanked Mr Abbott for what Taiwan’s foreign ministry called an “important, historic and also inspirational” trip.
“You and your country’s consistent effort to defend democracy, its values and [the] rules-based international order while resisting coercion from authoritarian countries is truly courageous and admirable,” President Tsai said.
Taiwan’s defence Minister this week warned military tensions with China were at their “most serious” in more than 40 years, and said Beijing would have the capability to launch a “full scale” invasion by 2025.
In Friday’s speech, Abbott said: “So if the ‘drums of war’ can be heard in our region, as an official of ours has noted, it’s not Australia that’s beating them. The only drums we beat are for justice and freedom – freedom for all people, in China and in Taiwan, to make their own decisions about their lives and their futures.”
Taiwan does not seek military confrontation but will do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life, President Tsai Ing-wen has said, amid a rise in tensions with China that has sparked alarm around the world.
Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its own territory, reported nearly 150 Chinese air force aircraft flew into its air defence zone over a four-day period beginning last Friday, China’s National Day.
“Taiwan does not seek military confrontation,” Tsai told a security forum in Taipei on Friday.
“It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbours. But Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life.”
Tsai told the forum that prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, where there are many opportunities, needs a peaceful, stable and transparent environment.
Taiwan has been seeking the support of other democracies around the world as its relations with China worsen, and this week played host to four French senators and former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, although he is visiting in a personal capacity.
Abbott, speaking at the same forum, condemned China for its aggressive actions, not only towards Australia, whose relations with Beijing have deteriorated sharply but also Taiwan.
“Its relative power might have peaked with its population ageing, its economy slowing and its finances creaking. It is quite possible that Beijing could lash out disastrously quite soon,” he said.
Abbott added that he did not believe the U.S. could sit by and watch China “swallow up” Taiwan.
“I don’t believe Australia should be indifferent to the fate of a fellow democracy of almost 25 million people.”
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