France lawmakers end visit to Taiwan, vow support for beleaguered island state

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A group of six French parliamentarians led by François de Rugy (LReM,) chair of the French National Assembly's France-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, left Taiwan late Sunday after concluding a five-day visit.

The trip is part of a pattern of low-level western politicians visiting the island that is independently ruled, but claimed by China's Communist Party.

The six-member French delegation left Taoyuan International Airport on an EVA Air flight at 11:50 p.m., concluding a visit from Wednesday to Sunday.

The other members of the delegation were MPs Jean-Luc Reitzer (Les Républicains,) Frédérique Dumas (Greens,) Jean François Mbaye (LReM,) Aina Kuric (Mouvement Démocrate,) and Jean-Louis Bricout (PS.)

The delegation met with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen and other senior government officials. De Rugy, a former president of the National Assembly and long-time supporter of Taiwan, was presented with a Medal of Honor for Parliamentary Diplomacy on Friday.

Status quo

At a Friday press event, de Rugy reiterated Paris' stance in opposing any acts of intimidation that jeopardize the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan is in a particularly difficult position, facing threats from China at a time when Washington and Beijing are competing for influence in the Indo-Pacific region, de Rugy said.

"It is therefore important that democracies show support for each other and that stability and security is maintained in the strait," he added.

Without mentioning China or the regime in Beijing, Tsai said during her meeting with Rugy and his delegation that democratic partners should "collaborate closely, given the rapid changes to the international landscape and the continued spread of authoritarianism."

The parliamentary delegation is the second high-level political French group to visit the island and is the latest in a flurry of trips made by European and American politicians that have angered China.

"Country" Taiwan

In October, a French Senate delegation, headed by former Defence Minister Alain Richard, visited Taipei.

Richard's group made the trip despite warnings from China and he called Taiwan a "country" repeatedly during his stay.

Last Wednesday, China's foreign ministry criticised the latest French visit, saying "relevant parties should... stop sending false signals to Taiwan independence separatist forces".

"We firmly oppose any form of official or political interaction between Taiwan and countries having diplomatic relations with China, according to spokesperson Zhao Lijian during a daily press conference.

Taiwan by force?

Beijing claims self-ruled democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken one day, by force if necessary.

It has tried to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and seethes at the official use of the name Taiwan or any reference to it as a country.

Since Tsai's 2016 and 2020 election victories, Beijing has ramped up pressure on Taiwan and aggressively tried to dissuade politicians from visiting.

China conducted military drills near the Taiwan Strait following a visit by a group of American lawmakers last month.

Taiwan's defence minister has warned that military tensions between the island and China were at their highest in four decades, after around 150 Chinese warplanes -- a record number -- made incursions into Taiwan's air defence zone in October.

(With wires)

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