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President Tsai addresses Forum 2000 Conference
President Tsai addresses Forum 2000 Conference

At 8 p.m. on the evening of October 12 (2 p.m. Czech time), President Tsai Ing-wen delivered a speech via video for the opening ceremony of the Forum 2000 Conference at the invitation of the Forum 2000 Foundation.

President Tsai noted that in the face of one of the greatest challenges in human history—the COVID-19 pandemic, a most critical issue we must address is how to safeguard our democratic system and way of life. She emphasized that the partnership between Taiwan and the Czech Republic will only grow stronger, and that democracy and freedom also serve as the basis for our economic prosperity. She thanked the Czech Republic for supporting Taiwan and expressed her belief that only through working together and helping each other, we may achieve our goal of safeguarding and furthering democracy and freedom.

A transcript of President Tsai's speech follows:

It is my pleasure to join you all at the 24th Forum 2000 Conference. This is my first time taking part in Forum 2000 as President of Taiwan.

I would first like to thank Forum 2000's Executive Director, Jakub Klepal and his team, for their dedication to facilitating international cooperation among democracies, and for their consistent support for Taiwan. I treasure and appreciate your friendship.

I also want to thank [Czech Republic] Senate President [Miloš] Vystrčil again, for weathering incredible pressure and for visiting Taiwan last month.

A lot has happened this year. And, all these events will make 2020 the year that the world faced one of the greatest challenges in human history. That challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic. And during this pandemic, one of the most critical issues we must resolve has been how to safeguard our democratic system and way of life.

This is what makes this gathering of Forum 2000 so important. Through modern technology and videoconferencing, we can discuss critical topics such as the post-pandemic era, new world order and how we can restore responsibility, maintain good governance and solidarity.

This year, countries around the world committed tremendous resources and capabilities to combating the pandemic and preventing an economic downturn. On the other hand, taking advantage of our preoccupation, certain regimes used technology to monitor the movements of their people, control pandemic prevention materials and limit the freedom of information and expression. We've seen how expansionism encroaches on the rules-based international order, encourages border conflicts and disregards freedom and human rights.

The situation in Hong Kong serves as an unfortunate example. This also means Taiwan now stands at the forefront of safeguarding democracy. To accomplish this important task, Taiwan needs support and collaboration from democracies around the world, such as the Czech Republic.

Taiwan and the Czech Republic are partners with shared-values. We believe in freedom, equality, transparency, human rights and good governance.

We also share a similar political history, in which our brave and resilient people fought the atrocities of authoritarianism. We also have courageous predecessors, whose desire for democracy and justice inspired future generations.

So, this makes my participation in this conference very special to me. Forum 2000 was founded by Former [Czech Republic] President Václav Havel in 1996. It is my understanding that Forum 2000 has been assisting in the development of civil society, encouraging religious, cultural and ethnic tolerance and providing a platform for global leaders, thinkers and courageous individuals to openly discuss and debate important issues related to democracy.

Taiwan has sent representatives and participants to this important gathering in past years, and this also symbolizes the important partnership between Taiwan and the Czech Republic.

Last year, the Czech Republic commemorated the 30th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, where Former President Havel played an important role in inspiring popular support for democratization. Years later, Former President Havel visited Taiwan and shared his inspiring story with our people.

He also met with Chen Chu (陳菊), a democracy advocate and now our Control Yuan President, when she visited the Czech Republic. President Chen Chu shared her journey as a democracy advocate in Taiwan under martial law with President Havel.

The meeting was quite moving, as President Chen and Former President Havel both made great personal sacrifices to champion democracy and freedom in their respective countries. More importantly, President Havel's support for Taiwan still resonates with our people today. The partnership and friendship between Taiwan and the Czech Republic continues to this day.

This year, the Czech Republic's Senate President Miloš Vystrčil led a delegation of 89 people to Taiwan. Mr. Vystrčil became the first head of parliament to address Taiwan's Legislative Yuan.

His declaration in Mandarin Chinese that he is Taiwanese not only moved the Taiwanese people, it also encouraged us to face up to the intimidation and challenges from the Chinese Communist Party regime across the Strait.

I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Czech delegation once again. Their visit showed us that Taiwan is never alone. Our confidence is bolstered by our democratic partners as we march toward a collaborative future. And, it is because of our shared-values, that the partnership between Taiwan and the Czech Republic will only grow stronger. Democracy and freedom also serve as the basis for our economic prosperity.

Our economic collaboration has spanned more than two decades. Taiwan is the fourth largest investor in the Czech Republic, investing more than the People's Republic of China. The Czech Republic's technological capabilities and investment environment are very appealing to many Taiwanese companies. Companies such as Foxconn, ASUS and Acer all have factories in the Czech Republic.

There are also many examples of Taiwan-Czech Republic collaboration in overseas markets, making the Taiwan-Czech Republic partnership an imperative part of the world's effort to restructure supply chains.

Taiwan and the Czech Republic signed three MOUs during President Vystrčil's visit. We are also seeking further collaboration in AI, communications, telecommunication and medical services. In light of this, I believe the cooperation between Taiwan and the Czech Republic can only achieve mutually beneficial results.

Starting next year, we will also provide 50 scholarships to encourage Czech students to come to Taiwan on exchange. I hope that with these educational exchanges, we can facilitate even more mutual understanding and create an even more cooperative future.

Lastly, I hope that after the pandemic has receded, you can all visit Taiwan. You will see a beautiful democratic country with magical scenery, friendly people, and of course, tasty food. It is my sincere belief that countries with shared-values need to work together to safeguard what we have, our way of life and how we operate.

To conclude, I wish this year's Forum 2000 great success. I believe that only through working together and helping each other, we may achieve our goal of safeguarding and furthering democracy and freedom.

The Forum 2000 Foundation was founded in 1996 by former Czech President Václav Havel, who led the Czech Republic's democratization, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, and Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa. It pursues the legacy of Václav Havel by supporting the values of democracy and respect for human rights, assisting the development of civil society, and encouraging religious, cultural and ethnic tolerance. The foundation provides a platform for global leaders, as well as thinkers and courageous individuals from every field of endeavor, to openly debate and share these critical issues. Since 1997, Forum 2000 has organized an annual conference which has attracted a number of prominent thought leaders, Nobel laureates, former and acting politicians, and business leaders. It has become a global democratic event and an important annual event in Prague.

The theme of the 24th Forum 2000 Conference is "A New World Emerging? Restoring Responsibility and Solidarity," discussing the need to restore responsibility and solidarity in a rapidly transforming world. Key speakers at the event include Czech Republic Senate President Miloš Vystrčil, European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová, European Commission Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore, US National Democratic Institute President Derek Mitchell, and Community of Democracies Secretary General Thomas E. Garrett.

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