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Taiwan Hosts Democracy Activists From Hong Kong, Russia and Iran

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy's World Movement for Democracy summit in Taipei, Oct. 25, 2022.

The threat posed by authoritarian regimes is a "wake-up call for democrats worldwide," Taiwan's leader said Tuesday, as she opened a meeting of global activists that included fugitive Hong Kong dissident Nathan Law.

About 200 political and civic leaders from 70 countries, including Iran, Russia and Ukraine, were attending the assembly in Taipei.

It began just two days after Chinese President Xi Jinping tightened his grip on power by securing a third term and elevating a group of loyalists to top jobs at a choreographed Communist Party gathering.

Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by authoritarian China, which views the island as part of its territory, to be taken one day.

President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan's people "have never shied away from the challenges of authoritarian interference... and fought against forces looking to undermine" its democracy.

"The challenge posed by authoritarian regimes is an important wake-up call for democrats worldwide," she said in a summit speech that cited Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

FILE - Ryan Law, second from right, being arrested by police officers in Hong Kong, June 17, 2021.
FILE - Ryan Law, second from right, being arrested by police officers in Hong Kong, June 17, 2021.

Law, one of Hong Kong's best-known democracy activists, said he believed Xi's third term would make the world less secure.

"It's very clear that Xi Jinping is amassing power, centralizing more power, and I think it has very bad implications for the world," he told AFP on the sidelines of the summit.

It is the first time Law has returned to Asia since fleeing Hong Kong in 2020 for Britain. He faces national security charges that have jailed many of the city's democracy activists.

Law said he believed Xi's "one-man dictatorship" would be increasingly hard to predict and that the Chinese leader was becoming like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"They will value their personal ambition more than the stability of the country. So, it means that they could have more reckless moves in terms of really threatening Taiwan and threatening the world," he said.

China is a key ally of Russia and has not condemned its February invasion of Ukraine.

That war has deepened fears that Beijing might attempt to annex the island. There has been an outpouring of public support for Kyiv in Taiwan, which has sent money and vowed to uphold Western sanctions.

Ukrainian politician Kira Rudik was also in Taipei on Tuesday, meeting local legislators — the first time in 15 years that a lawmaker from Ukraine has visited.

"We know your support, we hear it, we see it, we feel it," she told reporters while visiting Taiwan's parliament.

"We know about the sanctions that you put against Russia so that they cannot manufacture their weapons."