TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan and Europe must work together to defend themselves against authoritarianism and disinformation, President Tsai Ing-wen told MPs from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Monday.
Lithuania faces sustained pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, since it authorized the de facto opening of a Taiwanese embassy in its capital.
Beijing has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure on Taipei to accept claims of Chinese sovereignty and limit its international participation, though Tsai says Taiwan will not bow to threats and defend its freedom and democracy.
Tsai told lawmakers in the presidential office that Taiwan and the Baltic countries – which were once part of the Soviet Union – share similar experiences of breaking free from authoritarian rule and fighting for freedom.
“The democracy we enjoy today has been hard won. It is something we all understand very deeply,” she said.
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“Now the world is faced with the challenges posed by the expansion of authoritarianism and the threat of disinformation. Taiwan is more than willing to share its experience in combating disinformation with its European friends. We must safeguard our common values to guarantee our free and democratic way of life. “
Matas Maldeikis, head of the Taiwanese Friendship Group in the Lithuanian parliament, told Tsai in response that his group was in Taipei to express solidarity with the island.
“The Lithuanian government’s policy towards Taiwan enjoys wide support in our society. Preserving freedom and the rules-based international order is in the vital interests of Taiwan and Lithuania,” he said. .
There are many opportunities for economic and cultural cooperation, added Maldeikis, whose trip has been condemned by China.
No member state of the European Union has official relations with Taiwan.
The United States has strongly supported its NATO ally, Lithuania, in its feud with China.
Lithuania is also facing problems with pressure from Russia and Belarus, with migrants on its border with Belarus.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Richard Pullin)
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