Tsai Ing-wen was on Wednesday sworn-in as the president of Taiwan for the second consecutive term to rule the island state for the next four years.

Tsai, 63, is Taiwan’s seventh but the first female president who is holding the presidential office for fifteenth term.

She represents the Democratic Progressive Party and won with over 8 million votes in the January election.

In her inaugural address to a downsized audience maintaining social distancing measures, Tsai rejected Beijing’s “one country, two systems” rule.

“I want to reiterate the words peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue. We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle.”

However, she added that Taiwan was ready to engage in dialogue with China for “more concrete contributions to regional security” amid tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

“I am honored to once again take on the responsibility entrusted to me by the Taiwanese people as the president. I know that no matter the challenges we may face, we will stand together in freedom, democracy, and solidarity,” she said.

She also focused on the geopolitics of the deadly coronavirus during her speech.

“Coronavirus has profoundly affected our world. It has changed the global political and economic order, accelerated and expanded the reorganization of global supply chains, restructured the global economy, and changed the way we live and shop. It has even changed the way the international community views Taiwan and developments in the surrounding region,” she said, adding that the COVID-19 has both challenges and opportunities.

At a unique swearing-in ceremony, Taiwan did not invite foreign guests or leaders due to the pandemic. The inauguration was streamed online while a selected number of people attended the ceremony.

With eyes on more participation at global level, Tsai said: “Over the next four years, we will continue to fight for our participation in international organizations, strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with our allies, and bolster ties with the US, Japan, Europe, and other like-minded countries.”

Taiwan insists it is an independent state, free of China’s sovereignty claims. At least 15 countries recognize it free and have formal diplomatic relations with Taipei. But China says Taiwan is a “breakaway province”.

During the pandemic, Taiwan’s role has been applauded as it has been successful in suppressing the spread of the infection, so far.

However, Taiwan could not participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) early this week because of opposition from China which asked Taipei to accept the “One China, Two Systems” for any such participation. Taiwan rejected the condition.

‘No room for separatist activities’, says China

Reacting to the presidential speech by Tsai, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council termed the ongoing cross-Strait relations “difficult and complicated”.

“Any attempt to separate Taiwan from China will not be tolerated,” said Ma Xiaoguang, the council spokesman.

“China is committed to the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and willing to create space for peaceful reunification, but will never leave room for any form of separatist activities,” Chinese daily ECNS reported qutoing council’s spokesman.

“We have full confidence and firm determination to defend our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Ma.

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the “congratulatory message” by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Taiwan leader Tsai on her inauguration.

“Congratulations to Dr. Tsai Ing-wen on the commencement of your second-term as Taiwan’s President. Taiwan’s vibrant democracy is an inspiration to the region and the world. With President Tsai at the helm, our partnership with Taiwan will continue to flourish,” Mike Pompeo had said in a tweet.

Taiwanese envoy regrets WHO move

Yaser Tai-Hsiang Cheng, the chief of Taiwan’s Economic and Cultural Mission in Turkey, said Taiwan “will not accept Beijing’s ‘one country, two systems’ formula”.

“We will stick to peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue as Taiwan’s principle while engaging with China,” he said quoting her president’s speech.

However, he regretted that the World Health Organization did not include Taiwan in the annual WHA convention “again due to political reasons” despite Taiwan’s achievement in containing the coronavirus outbreak.

“Taiwan will continue to contribute to global health regardless of the political hurdles,” Yaser told Anadolu Agency.

“Over the past four years, Taiwan has made great strides in many fields, and I am confident that we will continue to thrive during President Tsai’s second term.”

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