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Criticism of China: The President of Taiwan recalls the Tiananmen massacre

Criticism of China: The President of Taiwan recalls the Tiananmen massacre

As of: June 4, 2024 at 11:20 AM

35 years ago, Chinese soldiers killed hundreds of protesters in Beijing. This event is kept secret in the People's Republic of China. In Taiwan, President Lai Ching-te remembered the Tiananmen Square massacre – and criticized China.

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te recalled the victims of the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 and criticized China's handling of them. “A truly respectable state is one that allows its citizens to express their opinions,” he wrote on Facebook. He added that every political force must have the courage to confront the voice of the people.

The topic is taboo in the People's Republic of China. “The anniversary of June 4 will not be lost in the tide of history, and we will continue to work hard to preserve its memory,” Lai wrote.

Taiwan's China Affairs Authority called on the Chinese government to have the courage to acknowledge the historical facts that occurred on June 4th and adopt a more open attitude toward different opinions.

Taiwanese President Lai strongly criticized China for its censorship policy.

The German Embassy sets an example

On Tuesday night, the German Embassy in Beijing showed a video of flickering candles in several windows of its building, a symbol of June 4th that has been known for years.

Human rights groups criticized. “So far, the Chinese government has not accepted responsibility for the human rights violations committed during the military operation,” said Jasna Kozvik of the Threatened Peoples Association.

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A large security presence in Hong Kong and Beijing

In Beijing, Chinese authorities significantly increased police presence around the site. Checkpoints and patrol cars were deployed on the main road leading to Tiananmen Square.

Repression also increased in China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – and for a long time, Hong Kong was the only place in China where the victims could be remembered. For several years, public June 4th commemorative events have been banned there, with Beijing taking stricter measures.

Security officers carried out special patrols around Victoria Park in Hong Kong, where a recorded candlelight vigil was held every year until 2019. The park's sports fields, where tens of thousands of people had gathered in previous years to mark the anniversary, were used to hold a festival.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported that hundreds of Hong Kong police officers will monitor activities reminiscent of the Tiananmen massacre. On the eve of the anniversary, the presence in sensitive sites increased. Police will also monitor social media. There have been several arrests in connection with Memorial Day in recent days.

Thousands of people gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. They demonstrated peacefully for greater democracy and against the government.

Soldiers killed hundreds of civilians

35 years ago, the People's Liberation Army crushed weeks of peaceful protests against the government and demands for greater democracy in Beijing. For weeks, thousands of demonstrators peacefully occupied the huge square at Tiananmen Gate in the center of the Chinese capital. After several attempts to mediate between the state, party leadership, and demonstrators failed, the communist government declared martial law in Beijing.

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On the night of June 3-4, 1989, forces advanced with tanks towards Tiananmen Square and attacked citizens. In the streets surrounding the square, hundreds of civilians, and by some estimates thousands, were killed by Chinese soldiers. Many people were arrested and put in prison.

Two days after the Tiananmen Square massacre: tanks and destroyed military vehicles stand on an overpass while bicycle traffic moves below.

The events were silent

But to this day the massacre has not been re-evaluated, neither socially nor criminally. The events were silent. There is nothing about the events that occurred on the heavily censored Chinese Internet. Even in textbooks and history books, nothing is written about the democratic protests and the repression that followed. Generations of Chinese people had no idea what happened at that time.

No one in China mentions this topic, says political scientist and author Zhao Sili, who now lives in the United States. Not family, teachers, professors, or the media. The woman, now in her mid-30s, knew nothing about the protests and massacre until she was 21. “This major tragic event has been completely erased from the people's vocabulary, history, and from the Chinese people's fact-based view of the world. It is unjust and unwittingly leads people to lie and deny reality.”

With information from Benjamin Issel, ARD Studio Beijing