I am delighted to see everyone in New York, where, as everyone knows, I once went to school. This is my first time in New York as president of the Republic of China (Taiwan). I often came to New York when I studied in the United States, and seeing the familiar street scenes once again brought back fond memories. As president, however, there are security considerations that prevent me from wandering freely around the streets like I did when I was young, which is a little sad. But for a president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), that’s a small sacrifice.
Of course, I did not come to New York to relive old memories. As soon as the aircraft landed the day before, the delegation dove right in and got down to work. Our one and only objective is to lead the nation out onto the global stage.
The last time I was in New York was in 2015, when I was still running for president. I was impressed by how passionate everyone was. And the fact that so many expatriates are on hand shows that everyone still has that same desire, so I hope everyone will join me, and continue to give your all to make Taiwan a better place.
Overseas Taiwanese have long been Taiwan's biggest supporters. Over the past few years, I’m sure everyone can see that the Taiwan-US relationship has made constant progress, and many US friends are here with us today. I trust everyone is concerned about the efforts and results of Taiwan’s people over the past three years.
My last time in New York was in 2015, when I spoke to nearly 1,500 Taiwanese-Americans. So I am pretty used to receiving a warm welcome here in New York.
Taiwanese-Americans are integral to the fabric of society in New York. Many made the decision to serve the public by going into politics, such as New York State Senator John Liu.
The Taiwan Center in Flushing was the first Taiwanese-American organization in the US and is the largest in the country. And I hear that the annual Passport to Taiwan always attracts large crowds wanting a taste of Taiwan’s unique delicacies and diverse culture.
This is not to mention your many successful business ventures that have helped create thousands of jobs in this city. So I think everyone here deserves a round of applause.
Taiwan and New York are more alike than you might think. We both take pride in our progressive society, openness to new ideas, and tolerance for different opinions.
Just as the Statue of Liberty served as a symbol of American freedom lighting the way for future democracies, Taiwan is a beacon of democracy in the Indo-Pacific. We have walked the long path from authoritarianism to free and open democracy. And that path was not an easy one.
Yet, those who came before us were committed to seeing it through. Their legacy, our democratic achievement, belongs to all 23 million Taiwanese, and all of you here as well.
Freedom is irrevocably ingrained in every aspect of our lives, in our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and most certainly, the freedom to run for office and exercise our right to vote.
I’m sure you all know that people in Taiwan are highly attuned to politics, and we take our elections seriously. Be it in principle or in practice, freedom and democracy have become our way of life.
But we cannot take Taiwan’s hard-earned freedom and democracy for granted, nor can the world afford to ignore our predicament. Because freedom around the world is under threat like never before. Authoritarian abuses of power dominate the headlines. Freedom House even titled its 2019 report “Democracy in Retreat.”
As authoritarian regimes refine and introduce new methods of political and economic subversion, these influences are beginning to creep outward. They seek to undermine our democracy by spreading disinformation through new forms of media, blurring the line between fact and fiction.
And this threat affects us all, because even established democracies have shown themselves to be vulnerable to their exploitations.
Taiwan has long been on the frontlines of this battle. In recent years, Taiwan has also become a testing ground for new infiltration and influence tactics.
My administration is constantly vigilant and actively pushing back. We work around the clock to safeguard our hard-earned freedom by promoting media literacy, empowering our law enforcement agencies, and updating laws and regulations to keep our country safe.
Just this month, we completed major legislative amendments that are helping keep our country and people safe.
We know that cybersecurity is the future of national security, and we have established a legal framework to identify and prevent the spread of disinformation.
We have amended laws that will allow us to prosecute persons working for forces that seek to undermine our democracy. And we are cracking down on intelligence leaks by placing heavier restrictions on former officials and those with access to classified information.
Most importantly, we are guaranteeing the Taiwanese people’s right to choose their own future through democratic means.
Taiwan is a bastion of democracy facing down encroaching authoritarianism. And Taiwan’s existence helps safeguard democracies around the world. But we cannot do this alone. It is absolutely crucial for democracies to work together to counter the expansion of authoritarian influences.
Rest assured, our government will resolutely defend our freedom, democracy and way of life. We will bolster our defenses against both conventional and hybrid threats.
We are determined to safeguard our sovereignty. And we always stand ready to share our experiences and contribute to the international community.
Over the past three years, we have worked day in and day out with three goals in mind: to keep Taiwan safe, transform our economy, and engage with the world. We will continue to push for reforms that foster equality and help us compete in the global market. And we will continue to work with the United States to advocate for our common values.
Once again, I want to thank all of you for your unwavering support. In our ever-changing world, we need the support of our overseas community and like-minded friends in the US as we continue on the path of reform and a better future for us all. Thank you.