Hundreds gathered in Taiwan’s capital on Sunday to mark the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown – a show of solidarity as Beijing continues to censor all trace of the 1989 incident.
The annual vigil took place outside Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, with speakers including Chinese human rights lawyer Chen Jiangang, Taiwanese NGO worker Lee Ming-che, Danish artist Jens Galschiøt via video link, and ex-Tiananmen student leader Zhou Fengsuo — who spoke from New York, home to the world’s only museum about the crackdown.
Hong Kong political artist Kacey Wong, who fled fled to Taiwan in 2021 over safety fears, also appeared.
Taiwan’s commemoration has taken on added significance in recent years as the only Chinese society that openly marks the crackdown anniversary.
The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.
For three decades, Hong Kong held a large-scale vigil in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park until authorities banned the gathering and jailed its organisers. Over 20 people were detained in the city on Sunday, with Chief Executive John Lee unable to confirm, last Tuesday, whether public mourning was legal under the Beijing-imposed security law.
“It’s kind of like a switching of roles,” artist Kacey Wong told HKFP at the Taipei event. “This forbidden demonstration of empathy and sympathy is really anti-human. Taiwan, on the other hand, allows [us] to continue this practice of humanism, to care, to express our sorrow. So that’s why I think the turnout here is even better than last year.”
I was invited to speak on stage at the June 4th Commemoration in Taipei and I spoke about about the secret of Happiness is Freedom and the secret to Freedom is Courage, then for me, the secret to Courage is Persistence, be Persistent my friend! pic.twitter.com/SZLkGHRuv6— Kacey Wong (@KaceyWong15) June 5, 2023
A political science university student, who asked to be identified only by her surname Chiu, told HKFP that she felt it was important to “show up and keep the memory alive,” especially when “others are not” able to.
Taipei’s event also featured a replica of Galschiøt’s “Pillar of Shame,” memorialising those who died at Tiananmen. Police seized a larger version of the sculpture in Hong Kong earlier this year in connection to an “incitement to subversion” case, after the University of Hong Kong removed it from their campus.
Before the vigil, the National Taiwan University Graduate Student Association held a press conference in Liberty Square in response to reports that Lau Ka-yee – a graduate student from the university – had been arrested in Causeway Bay earlier in the day. The group called her detention “arbitrary” and urged for her “immediate release.”
In response, a Hong Kong government spokesperson said in a press release on Monday that “all law enforcement actions taken by law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the people or organisations concerned, and have nothing to do with their political stance or background.”
Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday: “In the land of Taiwan people enjoy democracy and freedom… We look forward to the day when our young Chinese friends can sing freely and express themselves with their own creativity, passion and have no worries,” referencing a flash mob singing event at the Guizhou subway.
VIDEO: Taiwan holds candle light vigil in Taipei on the 34th anniversary of China’s bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown pic.twitter.com/LoEaxmIne3— AFP News Agency (@AFP) June 5, 2023
This year’s event falls under the shadow of a sexual harassment allegation against Wang Dan, a prominent activist and former student leader at Tiananmen Square. A former political worker Lee Yuan-chun accused Wang of trying to have sex with him and making unwanted advances afterwards in 2014. Wang has denied the allegation. He was not invited to speak at the Taipei memorial, unlike previous years.
Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945 after Japan — which occupied the island for 50 years — was defeated in the Second World War. The People’s Republic of China claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces and does not recognise it as an independent country.
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