Tsai calls on Taiwan expats to support her transformation agenda

Houston, Aug. 18 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (???) told Taiwanese expatriates in the United States on Saturday that she was working to lead Taiwan through a comprehensive transformation and she hoped all overseas Taiwanese would join the effort.

"Taiwan is undergoing change, in a good direction," Tsai said at a welcome dinner in Houston, hosted by Taiwanese expatriates there after her arrival on a 27-hour transit stop on the return leg of her visit to two of Taiwan's diplomatic allies.

"I'm at the helm of the country, I'm determined and confident that I will lead Taiwan, with my team, through a thorough transformation," Tsai said. She asked the overseas Taiwanese to trust her and her administration and to join the transformation effort.

Turning to Taiwan-U.S. relations, Tsai hailed the U.S.'s recent passage of the Taiwan Travel Act and its decision to continue its arms sales to Taiwan as indications of a deepening mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries.

Taiwan and the U.S. have also been collaborating on efforts to promote public health and gender equality, and to crack down on cross-border crimes, Tsai told the 1,000-plus guests at the dinner.

"Taiwan-U.S. ties are the ray of light we expect" amid a growing threat to freedom of speech and to the lives of Taiwanese citizens, Tsai said, referring to China's increasing efforts to suppress Taiwan since she and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016.

"Thank you for keeping the light on," Tsai said, addressing U.S. Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson and Al Green who also attended the dinner.

It was Tsai's second transit stop in Houston since she took office as president, the first being in January 2017 during a trip to four of Taiwan's diplomatic allies in Latin America.

On her current overseas trip, Tsai departed Taiwan on Aug. 12 and had an overnight stopover in Los Angeles en route to Paraguay and Belize.

However, her transit stop in the California city was marred by an incident in which the Taiwanese owned 85? Bakery Cafe chain came under a massive attack on social media by Chinese netizens after Tsai had coffee there on Sunday.

Amid the uproar, in which Chinese netizens labeled the cafe chain as pro-Taiwan independence and called for a boycott of its stores in China, the company was forced to issue a statement expressing support for the "1992 consensus" that essentially implies Taiwan and mainland China are part of one country.

The cafe's response, however, enraged many netizens in Taiwan, who also threatened to boycott the company.

On Friday in Belize, when asked to comment on the issue, President Tsai described the incident as "regrettable" and unhelpful to the development of cross-strait relations because the company was forced to take a political stance that failed to please either side.

In the face of such a situation, the people of Taiwan should not point their fingers at each other but instead should stand up as one for Taiwan's democracy and freedom, she said.

In Houston, 85? Bakery Cafe and other Taiwanese enterprises were conducting business as usual on Saturday, despite some suggestions on social media that they should close for the day during Tsai's visit to avoid political backlash.

Tsai is scheduled return to Taiwan late Monday.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel