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VIDEO: Speaker of the US House of Representatives arrives in Taiwan

Patricia Zengerle and Michael Martina

Nancy Pelosi’s visit draws criticism from China

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday (2), beginning a visit that Beijing had warned against, saying it would damage Sino-US relations.

Pelosi is on an Asia tour that includes announced visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said earlier this week that any visit by US officials to Taiwan would be “gross interference in China’s internal affairs” and warned that “the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never stand idly by.”

Read more on the subject: US aircraft carrier enters China Sea under tension over Taiwan

Human rights

More than 30 years ago, Pelosi angered China’s government by appearing in Heavenly Peace Square and displaying a banner honoring dissidents killed in the 1989 protests. On Tuesday, the congresswoman disregarded China’s warnings and landed in Taiwan to support her government and meet with human rights activists.

Pelosi’s trip is the culmination of decades of mainstream US criticism of the Chinese government, especially on rights issues, and underscores the long history of the US Congress taking a harder line than the White House in negotiations with Beijing.

Also read: Russia accuses US of ‘destabilizing the world’ with possible Pelosi visit to Taiwan

Second in line of succession to the US presidency after Vice President Kamala Harris, Pelosi has become the most important US political representative to travel to Taiwan since then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1997. She is leading a delegation of six other House members.

In 1991, two years after China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, Pelosi and two other U.S. lawmakers held up a banner in Heavenly Peace Square that read, “To those who died for democracy in China.” Police approached, forcing them to leave the square. In 2015, she took a group of House Democrats to Tibet, the first such visit since the widespread unrest in 2008. Pelosi has regularly spoken on human rights issues in Tibet and met with the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a violent separatist.


China sees visits by U.S. officials to Taiwan as an encouraging sign for the island’s pro-independence camp. Washington has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but the U.S. is legally obligated to provide the means for the island to defend itself. Kharis Templeman, a Taiwan expert at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said that 82-year-old Pelosi would be looking to cement her legacy by signaling support for Taiwan against pressure from Beijing.

“And what better person to send that signal than the Speaker of the House herself? So she is in a very powerful symbolic position to stand against the CCP,” Templeman said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s claims of sovereignty and says only its people can decide its future. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said a trip would lead to “very serious developments and consequences.”

Read also: China says US will ‘bear all consequences’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan

Analysts said Beijing’s response is likely to be symbolic. “I believe China tried to signal that its reaction would make the U.S. and Taiwan uncomfortable, but would not cause a war,” said Scott Kennedy, an analyst on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The US Congress has long taken a harder line on Taiwan than the White House, no matter whether Democrats, such as President Joe Biden and Pelosi, or Republicans are in charge.

Republicans supported Pelosi’s trip. “Any member who wants to go, should go. It shows political deterrence to President Xi,” Representative Michael McCaul, top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told NBC News.

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