TAIPEI (CNA) — Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) joined thousands of people in Taipei Tuesday to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Beijing Tiananmen Square Incident, calling on China to reveal the truth behind the crackdown and immediately stop its human rights violations.
Organized by several civic groups, the event took place in Freedom Square in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the same place where tens of thousands of Taiwanese people gathered the night before the Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 1989, to show support for the student movement in Beijing.
The Tiananmen Square Incident was a bloody crackdown by Chinese security forces on pro-democracy student protesters that is believed to have resulted in thousands of deaths.
“History is a mirror that allows us to borrow from the past as a model for the present and to reflect on our past mistakes.
“Unfortunately, most young people in China are clueless about the 1989 incident because this part of history has been completely erased (in China),” said Chen, who attended the commemorative event in his capacity as the convener of the Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative Committee.
Chen said that in the 1980s, both Taiwan and China witnessed a wave of movements seeking freedom, democracy, and reform.
While Taiwan has managed to transform itself into a democracy that respects human rights, the Chinese authorities quashed the short-lived hope for democratization with tanks and “chose a wrong path that goes in the opposite direction to universal values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights,” Chen said.
“As we mark the anniversary of the incident here, we should remind ourselves to cherish Taiwan’s hard-earned freedom and democracy,” he said. “Democracy does not fall from the sky, nor does freedom.”
Chen Ming-chi (陳明祺), deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, the top government agency in charge of cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, said in a speech that freedom is like air because people only realize its importance when they start to suffocate.
Taiwan will continue to stand alongside other democratic and freedom-loving nations and work to facilitate democratization in China, Chen Ming-chi said.
He also urged Beijing to immediately release jailed Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s discussions about a controversial extradition bill.
The organizers marked the commemoration with a dance performance, the screening of a film featuring the mothers of incident victims calling for truth and government compensation, and vivid recollections by individuals who witnessed the bloody crackdown.
They estimated that more than 2,000 people attended the event, including politicians and people from home and overseas.
Also participating in the event was former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), the only presidential candidate hopeful to attend.
Lai said that to prevent an incident like Tiananmen from happening in Taiwan, people must stay united to resist annexation attempts by China, its plan to implement a “one country, two systems” model here, and to safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy.
Also among the high-profile attendees was Stephen Yates, a deputy national security adviser to former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001-2005, who is visiting Taiwan to attend a May 30 conference on international religious freedom in Hsinchu.
Yates told CNA on the sidelines of the event that he was in Taiwan’s Hengchun peninsula on June 4, 1989, so he felt it was appropriate to stay in Taipei to observe the 30th anniversary of the massacre.
“I think it is extremely important for Taiwan (to hold the commemorative event), because we constantly have debates about what China is becoming, the nature of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and the nature of China,” Yates said.
“I think the Tiananmen massacre is a very chilling reminder that Chinese people will kill Chinese people.”
Yates said that both Taiwan and the U.S. now face a greater challenge from the CPC than they did in 1989, which is what makes the anniversary event more important.
At the event, Chinese writer Wu Zuolai (吳祚來), who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests, recounted the incident, saying that he did not believe the CPC would actually use force against Chinese protesters even after he saw the tanks at the Square.
“However, were it not for the bloodshed, the world would not have realized the CPC’s evil,” Wu said, urging the Taiwanese public and politicians not to trust the CPC and its promises.
Several participants at the event also chanted slogans opposing the passage of an extradition bill in Hong Kong, which, if passed, could see Hong Kong democracy advocates sent to China for trial.
They also called for support for a planned June 9 protest in Hong Kong against the bill.
By Stacy Hsu