Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government reportedly threatened to pull financial support for the Halifax Security Forum (HFX) over its alleged proposal to present Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen with an award.
Sources from the prestigious security forum told Politico on Sunday that HFX intends to present the Taiwanese leader with the 2020 John McCain Prize for Leadership and Public Service. The move would put the Canadian government on the bad side of the Chinese government, which obviously opposes Taiwan or any recognition of its sovereignty as an independent nation.
On Monday, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan denied that the funding for the HFX had been called into question. “No, in fact, I authorized funding for the Halifax International Security Forum twice last year,” the minister said to a special parliamentary committee meeting.
Sajjan refused to answer if he would endorse Tsai’s receipt of the prize, according to a follow-up story by Politico.
China has long maintained that Taiwan is a breakoff territory of China and does not recognize the legitimacy of the Taiwanese government, which it often refers to as “dissidents” and “rebels.”
Chinese military leaders have expressed a desire to take over the island nation by force and reunify it with the mainland.
The move to honour Taiwan’s president places the Canadian government, a major sponsor of the Halifax Forum, at odds with the communist government.
The presentation would have been the third time HFX has presented the John McCain Award, which was first presented to the people of Lesbos in Greece for assisting refugees in 2018. In 2019, the award went to citizen protesters in Hong Kong for resisting the communist government of China.
The award to the Taiwanese president would have been for standing against pressure from the country’s communist neighbour.
Politico reports that when the Trudeau government learned of the forum’s plans to present Tsai with the award, they threatened to pull support and funding from the forum.
The Halifax Forum is supported by NATO and draws leaders from around the world for discussions.
“HFX has not yet announced the winner of the 2020 John McCain Prize for leadership in public service,” said HFX Vice President Robin Shepherd. “We look forward to making the announcement, and conducting a presentation event at an appropriate time, given the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic presents.”
“President Tsai of Taiwan is a respected international leader, the first female president of Taiwan, and a strong global advocate for democracy. She would certainly be an ideal fit for this award. At this time, we have no further announcements to make.”