President Chen will be videoconferencing at the National Press Club on May 29. The US does not allow high-ranking officials from Taiwan to visit the US in any kind of official capacity, which means that Chen must appear Wizard of Oz style.

Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian is scheduled to hold a video conference May 29 with international media based in the U.S. capital.

The event is being organized by the Washington-based National Press Club (NPC) , with Chen invited as a newsmaker to discuss the theme of “Democratic Taiwan: Challenges and Perspectives.”

Although Beijing has protested to the club over the event, the organizer Peter Hickman has brushed aside the intervention.

Hickman has been very friendly to Taiwan and has invited many Taiwan politicians to deliver speeches at the NPC over the past several years. He has also ignored Beijing’s demand that the NPC remove the ROC flag placed in its lobby.

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Chen held a video conference with international media in Geneva last week to promote Taiwan’s bid to become a full member of the World Health Organization, following a similar event with politicians, academics and media representatives in Germany last month.

The National Press Club, on the top floor of the National Press Building, where I had the great good fortune to work for a while a few years back, has a brief announcement here. The Taipei Times reported the other day on the obsessive objections of the Chinese:

After hearing of the plans for the event about two weeks ago, the Chinese embassy’s press counselor Chu Maoming (朱茂名) invited press club president Jerry Zremski for lunch, where he expressed his complaint, Hickman told the Taipei Times.

Hickman also attended the lunch.

Chu complained that the press club was “supporting [Taiwan's] position by giving them a prestigious forum,” Hickman said, adding that Chu had “repeated that over and over again.”

“No, we’re not,” Hickman said in reply to Chu. “We don’t support anybody’s position. It’s just about freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”

But Chu “ignored what we said,” Hickman said.

At one point, Chu said that “the people of China are very concerned about this,” which the two press club officials thought was a rather “funny” comment.

The Chinese embassy has regularly complained when Taiwanese speakers are invited to the club and always objected to the flying of the Taiwan flag in the club lobby along with the flags of other countries when a Chinese speaker is invited to the facility.

The Taiwan flag has been a fixture of the flag display for as long as anybody here can recall.

Anyone reading the peevish obsession China has with Chen, and with isolating Taiwan, should be able to see the claim that “Chen provokes China” for what it is: sheer pro-China propaganda. Here Beijing is “provoked” because Chen Shui-bian’s voice and image are being shown at the National Press Club. Beijing chooses to be provoked, because that gives it leverage in international arenas — being provoked is a policy choice. Both the actions of Chen against China, and China against Chen, are knowing actions by intelligent actors making choices with full agency — and making use of each other’s positions in appeal to their respective audiences, both domestic and international. Any position that reduces the agency of China to less than Chen’s in this game is thus essentially a pro-China propaganda claim.

Kudos to the National Press Club for hosting this event, and for laughing at China’s attempt to put a stop to it.