When a highly anticipated meeting took place between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Yingli Son shouted into the microphone.
“Taiwan is Chinese territory! Taiwan is part of China!” she announced in Mandarin outside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, clutching a Chinese flag and an American flag.
Elsewhere among the hundreds of people who had gathered to support Tsai or oppose her, drummers beat drums and people chanted, “Family, Taiwan!” – Go, Taiwan.
Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy and other members of Congress on Wednesday drew condemnation and threats of retaliation from Chinese officials who, like Son, believe that Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, is a breakaway region that belongs to Beijing.
Among local immigrants, the encounter fueled a passion for overcoming intractable ideological divisions, as US-China relations deteriorated and China threatened to take over. Taiwan by force if necessary seems increasingly realistic.
“I have a message to send to the world – the US government must support China,” said Son, 62, an assistant attorney who lives in Koreatown and was born in Shenyang, China. friends chased her away to continue speaking at another location.
Linda and Dennis Luc, immigrants from Taiwan, took a day off work to go to the library and support Tsai.
The Lucs, a member of Assn Taiwan. in Northwest Los Angeles, each person waved a homemade sign in the shape of a large red heart and the words: “Taiwan Go! Go! Go!”
“I’m glad she can go anywhere she wants. No one can order her. This is a free country, and we hope Taiwan has the same freedom,” said Dennis Luc, 63, who works in electronics assembly.
In a brief speech after an hour-long meeting with Tsai, McCarthy cited President Reagan and his “belief in democracy and commitment to the idea of peace and freedom.”
“Those values have always served as the foundation of our friendship with the people of Taiwan,” he said. “And now they are more important than ever. I believe our relationship is stronger now than at any time or any time in my life.
He said the US would honor its obligations towards Taiwan, which he did not explicitly specify, and noted that the meeting, which included 12 Republicans and six Democrats, was bipartisan.
“The friendship between the people of Taiwan and the United States is an issue of profound importance to the free world, and it is important to maintain… regional freedom, peace, and stability,” said McCarthy. , a Republican from Bakersfield said.
Tsai echoed McCarthy in noting that the long-term relationship between Taiwan and the United States is crucial.
“The solid support has reassured the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated,” she said. “We are not alone.”
She also cites Reagan, who said that freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.
“It is no secret that today, the peace we have maintained and the democracy for which we have worked so hard [to build] … is facing unprecedented challenges,” said Tsai. “Once again, we find ourselves in a world where democracy is at stake, and the urgency to keep the beacon of freedom shining cannot be underestimated.”
Ms. Tsai said she reiterated to the congressional delegation that Taiwan is committed to maintaining the policy Current Statuswhich the Taiwanese government has defined as “non-unification, non-independence, and non-use of force”.
“To keep the peace, we have to be strong,” she said, paraphrasing Reagan. “I would like to add that we are stronger together.”
After the meeting, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China In response to the serious wrongdoing of the United States and Taiwan, China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, said in a written statement. ours.”
Previous Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), visit Taiwan in Augustprompting Beijing to launch missiles over the area, deploy warships into the Taiwan Strait and conduct military exercises in a simulated island blockade.
McCarthy originally planned to meet Tsai in Taiwan. But to avoid further provoking China, the meeting took place during Tsai’s trip to the US and Central America.
Speaking to the media with other members of Congress on Wednesday afternoon, McCarthy said he has no specific plans to visit Taiwan. But he did not rule out the possibility of going.
“I will not act for a simple purpose for myself… and will not play the role of an enemy,” he said.
Tsai stayed in New York for two nights, then visited Guatemala and Belize, two of Taiwan’s few remaining official diplomatic allies, before heading to LA on Tuesday.
Beijing considers Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party to be Taiwan independence activists, although Tsai’s public statements are carefully tailored to avoid crossing that line.
After being elected to her first term as president in 2016, Tsai refused to endorse the notion that Taiwan and the mainland were part of China, leaving Beijing cut off diplomatic contact with her.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday at a meeting in Brussels of NATO foreign ministers, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that Taiwan’s presidents’ “transit” through the United States was not unusual. , as well as meetings with elected U.S. officials.
In 2018, Tsai gave a public address in LA and toured NASA’s mission control complex in Houston. She went to the 85C Bakery, is headquartered in Taiwan and has multiple locations in Southern California, prompting Chinese advocates to call for a boycott of the business.
“Therefore, it is far from saying that Beijing should not use transit as an excuse to take any action to increase tensions in order to further promote change of the status quo,” he said. “And our goal remains the same, to have peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and to ensure that any differences that exist between the mainland and Taiwan are resolved peacefully.”
Bonny Lin, senior fellow for Asian security and director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Beijing’s response to the McCarthy-Tsai meeting could include range from military exercises to economic sanctions, said she would not be surprised. if there is at least one medium-scale military response.
“We also know that China’s response has become more and more extreme over time,” Lin said. “As China’s military capabilities grow, as China’s overall power grows, Beijing no longer feels that it needs to tolerate these types of activities.”
As Tsai stepped out of his car in front of the Westin Bonaventure hotel after arriving in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, pro-China protesters chanted: “Against Taiwan independence! One China!” in common language.
Tsai waved to supporters flying the US and Taiwan flags.
Ziyun Zhang, a 30-year-old Uber driver, is from China but has come from the Bay Area to cheer for Tsai.
He said he moved to the US in 2020 after criticizing the Chinese government and Hong Kong’s extradition law on the WeChat app. He said the Chinese police questioned him for an hour and warned that he would face jail time if he continued to speak out.
“We still support [Tsai] for democracy,” said Zhang. “She also stands with us… She opposes the dictatorship of [Chinese Communist Party].”
Before Tsai arrived, small scuffles broke out when some of her supporters tried to snatch signs from the pro-China crowd. The police eventually separated the two groups by a few yards. However, they still occasionally engage in shouting matches, chanting duel slogans.
One China advocate, Peter Wei, said he doesn’t see a difference between mainland Chinese and Taiwanese.
“We have the same cultural background. We speak the same language,” said Wei, an engineer who came to the US from Beijing in 1990 at the age of 13.
Wei, president of the Assn Chinese American Community. in Southern California, thinks that Ms. Tsai Ing-wen’s visit will exacerbate anti-China sentiment in the US
“Her purpose was not to rest on her way to Central America,” Wei said. “Her aim is to sabotage the relationship between the US and China.”
Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson contributed to this report.