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Opening remarks by Deputy Minister Chun Lee for the hybrid seminar on Defending Democracy: Taiwan and Slovakia Unite against Disinformation

  • Data Source:Department of European Affairs
  • Date:2023-09-05

Dr. Roy Chun Lee

 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs 

 Republic of China (Taiwan)

 September 5, 2023

 (As Prepared for Delivery)

Good afternoon!

On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is my great pleasure to be a part of this important event, which underscores the depth of friendship between Taiwan and Slovakia and demonstrates our determination to defend our democracy and other shared values. 

For an extended period of time, the world has been gripped by an ongoing struggle between democracy and autocracy. This battle revolves around fundamental values and norms, as well as the rules-based international order. The conflict has grown more heated in the past decade as authoritarian regimes have ramped up their efforts to undermine democracy. Their activities threaten the aspiration of free and peace-loving nations to create a brighter and more prosperous future.

In Europe, Russia has relentlessly pursued an expansionist, imperialist agenda. The latest and sad example is of course the full-scale invasion of Ukraine—a sovereign state that had chosen to break free from its authoritarian past. Ukraine’s journey to democratization, social reform, and integration into the community of democratic nations has been violently interrupted. Russia’s war machine has devastated Ukraine’s cities, economy, natural resources, and environment. The conflict has claimed the lives of Ukrainian citizens, shattered homes, and forced displaced people to seek refuge in foreign lands. 

Although much smaller in military and economic scales than its invader, Ukraine has demonstrated its determination in the strongest forms possible to defend and defeat the aggressor. 551 days later, Ukraine not only stands stronger than before, but it is advancing towards the final victory.

The international community also overwhelmingly come to the support of Ukraine. In the last 1.5 years, Ukraine found staunch allies in the democratic camp, including Slovakia and Taiwan. While Slovakia is spearheading the support for Ukraine, Taiwan is also proud to join these efforts. We are especially grateful to our partnership with the Slovakian government, NGOs, and people in jointly assisting refugees, contributing to the reconstruction, and helping rebuild a democratic and prosperous Ukraine. 

Slovakia’s leadership in assisting Ukraine also makes you the target of Russian disinformation campaigns. These hybrid threats inject distorted information with the view of undermining our determination to stand with Ukraine, disrupting social cohesion, and dividing democratic allies.

Combating disinformation is the area Taiwan can make important contributions. Just like Ukraine, Taiwan stands on the front line against authoritarian aggression. In recent years, China has escalated tension across the Taiwan Strait. 

Through constant military provocations, China aims to test our defensive capabilities and create fear in Taiwan to undermine our determination and resilience. Equally if not more intimidating is China’s cyber and disinformation warfare against Taiwan. Each month, our government is hit by 20 million cyberattacks, most of which come from China. Taiwan is also constantly attacked by fake news and fabricated information with the aim to dividing Taiwan society, discrediting the government, creating confusion and fear. It is also intensifying its efforts to interfere and distort in our democratic process. 

Taiwan has aggregated substantial experiences through the daily struggles to combat China’s disinformation campaign. One thing is important, that is democracies must unite against hybrid threats because our adversaries are also collusive in their intentions. Authoritarian regimes cooperate closely to orchestrate distrust and confusion. Beijing supports Russia in its aggression against Ukraine and endorses subversive Russian strategies that target free nations, including those in Central and Eastern Europe. Both Beijing and Moscow want to isolate Taiwan from the free world. Taiwanese fact-checkers have documented numerous instances of our online space being infiltrated by pro-Russian narratives originating from China. The same disinformation flows from Russia into Slovakia and other European countries.

Taiwan and Slovakia share a common purpose. Our nations are in the same struggle to defend universal values and norms and bolster resilience to malicious threats. We both hold friendship, cooperation, and solidarity in high regard. Our partnership is underpinned by our unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy and our relationship is deepened by our willingness to share knowledge and expertise. Together, we can strengthen our capacity to address external risks, combat authoritarian influence, and neutralize disinformation. 

Cooperative efforts such as today’s seminar will ensure that we are better prepared to respond to the challenges ahead. For this, I am sure that we are going to a fruitful discussion today. There will be much to learn from the insights and experiences of government officials, experts, academics, NGO activists, and journalists from both countries. Mutually beneficial exchange programs and joint academic and policy forums like this can help add clarity to our shared vision for a brighter future—a future that we are shaping together. Thank you.