TAIPEI (AFP) – Europe must support Taiwan’s democracy, a senior EU lawmaker said on Tuesday (July 19) at the start of a trip to the island, citing both Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s crackdown in Hong Kong.

Ms Nicola Beer, one of the European Parliament’s vice-presidents, arrived for what Taiwan’s foreign ministry described as “the first official visit” by an MEP of her rank.

She told reporters upon arriving that “now is the moment to stand firm on the side of Taiwan”, calling Europe and the island part of a “family of democracies”.

“Taiwan’s bloom is also Europe’s bloom. We won’t have a blind eye on China’s threats to Taiwan. Europe was late for Hong Kong, we won’t be late for Taiwan,” she said, referring to Beijing’s recent dismantling of Hong Kong’s democracy movement.

“There is no room for Chinese aggression in democratic Taiwan. For the moment, we witness war in Europe; we do not want to witness war in Asia”.

China claims the self-ruled Taiwan as one of its provinces and seeks reunification with the island. Taiwan says its 23 million people will decide its future.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine has deepened fears both within Taiwan and among key Western allies that Beijing might do the same under President Xi Jinping.

Ms Beer’s visit is likely to upset China, which opposes any official exchanges between Taiwan and foreign politicians.

But she said “political need” brought her to Taiwan in her “official capacity”.

Last year, China condemned a visit to Taiwan by a European Parliament delegation led by French MEP Raphael Glucksmann, a vocal China critic who was among five lawmakers sanctioned by Beijing.

Ms Beer, a lawyer and a member of Germany’s liberal Free Democratic Party, is scheduled to meet President Tsai Ing-wen and other top officials during her three-day visit.