Taiwan Commemorates ‘Forgotten Day’ of the Tiananmen Massacre

People hold candles in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, also known as Free Square, to mark the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Taipei in June 4, 2020. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP) (Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)
SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wrote a Facebook post on Thursday commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. She described June 4 as a day the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) thinks it can erase from the calendar.

“Everywhere else on earth, a minute passes every 60 seconds. But in China, there are only 364 days in a year, and one day is forgotten,” she said.

Tsai acknowledged Taiwan’s difficult past and said the Taiwanese people have learned from their mistakes.

“In the past in Taiwan, we used to have many days that could not appear on the calendar, but we got them back one by one. Because we no longer have to hide history, we can think about the future together. I hope that in every corner and every land of this world, there will be no more days that disappear,” she said.

Tsai’s post concluded by stating that “Free Taiwan supports Hong Kong’s freedom.” Hong Kongers are bracing against losing the last of their autonomy as Beijing plans to sweep their legislature aside and impose a crushing national security law.

Taiwanese Vice President William Lai expressed similar thoughts in his own Facebook post, calling on Beijing to halt its persecution of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kong democracy activists, and political dissidents.

Tsai’s administration, through Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), on Thursday called upon the CCP to admit the “historical truth” of Tiananmen Square and issue a “sincere apology” for the massacre. 

The MAC said the victims of Tiananmen Square were “fighting for democracy and freedom” when the Chinese government “used force to silence the people.” 

The MAC called on the CCP to “face up to the expectations of the people for freedom and democracy, start political reforms in accordance with democratic and just procedures at an early date, and reassess the historical truth and sincerely apologize.”

“We believe that those currently in power should have the courage to correct mistakes, immediately initiate reforms and return power to the people,” the Taiwanese agency said.

The Chinese government dismissed the MAC statement as “nonsense,” essentially arguing that China’s “great achievements” justify whatever happened in Tiananmen Square by proving “the development path chosen by the new China is totally correct and in line with China’s national conditions.” The government in Beijing continued its refusal to acknowledge the 1989 massacre or provide an accurate count of the dead.

Some Hong Kongers forbidden by their own government from commemorating June 4 for the first time since the massacre, ostensibly on the grounds of coronavirus pandemic safety, went to Taiwan to organize their traditional candlelight vigil.

The event at Freedom Square in Taiwan drew thousands of attendees, some of whom demanded “independence for Taiwan.” Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers also defied their government to commemorate Tiananmen Square on Thursday, shouting pro-democracy slogans loudly enough to drown out the bullhorns of police ordering them to disperse.

“This has been a difficult period for Hong Kong, and I really fear that this will be the last year we can mark June 4 in any way here,” a young student attending her first Tiananmen vigil told the Washington Post

“The message the students were trying to send in 1989 is the same as ours; that is the desire of freedom,” she said.

Beijing loyalists in Hong Kong used June 4 to send a symbolic message of their own by pushing through a controversial bill that will criminalize disrespect for the national anthem of Communist China. Attendees of the Tiananmen Square vigil rendered their opinion of the bill by singing “Glory to Hong Kong,” the semi-official anthem of the protest movement.

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