“President Tsai is an inspiration and example for people who love freedom everywhere,” said forum president Peter Van Praa. “Her courage and steadfastness in defending her people against the aggression of the Chinese Communist Party are precisely the qualities that the John McCain Prize is intended to recognize.”
The award is presented each year at the Halifax Forum event, but the 2020 conference was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Van Praag said the forum would present the award in person to Tsai at a ceremony scheduled “in time”.
The forum congratulated Tsai on Monday on the release of a video calling her “another freedom champion.”
“I want to assure people that we will not escalate the confrontation, nor will we back down,” Tsai said in a video clip in the video.
Beijing does not recognize Taiwan’s independence and has long sought control. China has targeted island democracy for months with a hybrid war campaign involving election interference, cyber attacks and military planes orbiting its airspace. Taiwan’s economy has suffered as a result of heightened fears of a full-scale invasion.
Following the news of Canada pressuring the forum for the award, Trudeau’s liberal government and the prime minister himself are facing sharp questions about history in parliament.
Days after the POLITICO article, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a symbolic, non-binding proposal in support of the Halifax forum’s decision to give Tsai the prestigious award.
However, the Trudeau government is uncomfortable with the prospect of the award going to Tsai at the event in Canada.
Ottawa is trying not to provoke Beijing as it tries to secure the release of two Canadians behind bars in China.
Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing have deteriorated after Canadian authorities arrested high-ranking Huawei CEO Meng Wangzhou in December 2018 on a US extradition order. Beijing described the arrest of Meng, the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant, as a political act on behalf of the United States and demanded her release.
Last year, the US Department of Justice accused Huawei of violating the Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) – allegations most commonly related to organized crime – of fraud in the service of evading US sanctions against Iran.
Tensions between Canada and China escalated a few days after Meng’s arrest, when China brought together two Canadians in retaliation. The men were recently tried on espionage charges; they are currently awaiting sentencing and, if convicted, potentially lengthy sentences.
Securing the release of Michael Kovrig, a diplomat on leave, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who introduced basketball legend Dennis Rodman to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has become one of Trudeau’s biggest foreign policy challenges. Kovrig and Spavor are known in conversation in Canada as “the two Michael.”
The dispute also has economic consequences. China, Canada’s second largest trading partner, has stopped some key Canadian imported agricultural products since Maine’s arrest.
The annual event at the Halifax Forum is held in Canada, and as a major sponsor, Ottawa donates about $ 3 million annually to the conference.