With Taiwan visit, Nancy Pelosi caps career of standing up to China

As Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (82) disregarded China’s fiery warnings and landed in Taiwan to support its government and meet with human rights activists.

This is only the latest in her long history of criticising the communist party-led Chinese government during her career in the US Congress.

VISIT TO TIANANMEN SQUARE IN 1991

Pelosi had only been in Congress for two years when the Chinese government cracked down on student-led pro-democracy demonstrations on June 4, 1989, killing thousands of protesters.

Two years later, the young congresswoman joined a bipartisan visit to China and angered Beijing by showing up in Tiananmen Square and unfurling a banner honouring dissidents killed in the 1989 protests.

The small, hand-painted banner read: “To those who died for democracy in China.”

Chinese police closed in quickly, pushed away reporters covering the event and forced Pelosi to leave the square.

Over the years, she continued to speak out about the Tiananmen massacre, an event that is strictly censored in China to this date.

“If we do not speak out against human rights abuses in China, due to commercial interests, then we will lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anywhere else in the world,” Pelosi said recently in a statement marking 33 years of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

READ | Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taiwan despite China’s ‘warning’, Beijing plans military ops

OLYMPICS BOYCOTT

Pelosi has called for the rejection of China’s bids to host the Olympics as far back as 1993, based on criticism of China’s human rights record.

She also called on Congress and former US president George W. Bush to boycott China’s 2008 Summer Olympics, despite being unsuccessful.

In 2022, Pelosi again called for a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, criticising China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other minorities.

She said going to China “in light of a genocide” would raise questions about one’s “moral authority” to speak about human rights in the world.

Beijing’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson described Pelosi’s remarks as “full of lies and false information.”

READ | China plans ‘targeted military operations’ after Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan

SUPPORTING TIBETAN ACTIVISTS

In 2008, Pelosi slammed Chinese “oppression” in Tibet as the government cracked down on demonstrators.

In 2002 and 2009, Pelosi delivered personal letters to the then-Chinese president, Hu Jintao, calling for the release of political prisoners from Tibet, which Hu refused to accept.

In 2015, Pelosi took a group of House Democrats to Tibet, the first such visit since widespread Tibetan unrest in 2008, where she voiced support for Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing perceived as a violent separatist.

She has met the Dalai Lama on multiple occasions.

HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

Pelosi also voiced support for the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong over the years.

In response to the 2019 anti-extradition bill protest, Pelosi said the US stood “in solidarity with the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong”.

Now, Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan caps her decades as a leading US critic of the Beijing government, especially on rights issues, and underscores the long history of the US Congress taking a harder line than the White House in dealings with Beijing.

Kharis Templeman, a Taiwan expert at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said Pelosi, who is 82, would be looking to cement her legacy while signalling support for Taiwan against pressure from Beijing.

“And what better person to send that signal than the speaker of the House herself?” Templeman said.

“So she’s in a very powerful symbolic position to take a stand against the CCP.”

(With agency input)

READ | Nancy Pelosi lands in Taipei, claims US’ support to Taiwan’s democracy

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