US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address a forum on democracy next week that will also be attended by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung – a combination that is certain to infuriate China.
Their appearance at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, where the European Union will be represented by European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova, will give Tsai a moment in the international spotlight.
China has repeatedly accused the US of interfering in Taiwan and Hong Kong affairs, with Tsai and Wong being regular targets for state media denunciations.
The event comes as the Chinese government has tried to tighten its grip on Hong Kong through a new national security law, and has stepped up its rhetoric on Taiwan following Tsai’s election to a second term amid growing anti-Beijing sentiment on the island.
It is understood that Tsai will give a 10-minute video-recorded speech, due to time concerns, at the virtual event held next Thursday and Friday.
Pompeo, on his part, will talk about “China and the challenge to free societies”.
Pompeo has sought to build a united front with European policymakers to contain China, despite US President Donald Trump’s clashes with traditional US allies.
Chinese state media outlets have launched a series of attacks on Pompeo after he started blaming China for the Covid-19 pandemic.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV called him the “common enemy of mankind” after he accused the Chinese Communist Party of mishandling the outbreak during an interview with Fox News.
Another commentary, released by China’s National Radio, called him an “evil” politician who “lies and bluffs”. It added: “The Americans ‘becoming great again’ can only be seen as a joke.”
Taiwan has sought to get closer to the EU amid the coronavirus outbreak, and has sent face masks and other urgently needed medical equipment to European countries.
In a rare gesture, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Taiwan’s efforts on social media, saying on Twitter in April: “The European Union thanks Taiwan for its donation of 5.6 million masks to help fight the #coronavirus. We really appreciate this gesture of solidarity.”
The event is organised by the Alliance of Democracies, a group founded by the former Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen to counter what he saw as a vacuum in democratic debate created by Trump’s ascendancy.
Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, will open the event before Wong takes part in a 30-minute with a moderator in a session titled “fighting for democracy – from the battlegrounds of Hong Kong”.
Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Pompeo’s predecessors, John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, have also been invited, according to the official programme.
The Chinese embassy in Denmark has not responded to a request to comment on the event.
Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the think tank Centre for China and Globalisation, said it was “not very appropriate” for Pompeo and Tsai appear in the same setting, even if it was conducted virtually, as Beijing would consider it a violation of the “one-China policy”.
“If they invite these people but not Chinese side, then this is not appropriate, since we should have both sides represented,” said Wang.
Cui Lei, a specialist in China-US relations at the China Institute of International Studies, said the event has not previously featured serving senior politicians and Pompeo’s appearance reflected the ongoing tensions between Beijing and Washington but the Chinese government would not regard it as “serious”.
“This is not the first time that Pompeo has crossed lines,” he said, noting that last week Pompeo became the first US secretary of state to meet Tiananmen Square dissidents around the anniversary of the bloody crackdown.
Cui added: “These actions show that the US side is seeking to build a united front on ideology to put psychological pressure on the Chinese government, but I feel as long as the Chinese side does not take any retaliatory measures, this will not substantially damage Sino-US relations.”