People around the world remembered the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, the 25th anniversary of the massacre. However, Beijing found itself in a sticky situation.
The international community encouraged the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to tell the truth and give civic rights back to the Chinese, 180,000 people attended an event held in Hong Kong demanding political rehabilitation for those caught up in the massacre, and some people dressed in black took the risk of holding a remembrance event in Tiananmen Square itself.
A quarter of a century on, the CCP is still unwilling to face history and give Chinese freedom and democracy. The world will not ignore that 1.3 billion people in China are still living under political oppression.
Taiwan needs to pay attention to this, not only because the Tiananmen Square Massacre is closely related to the issues of universal values and basic human rights.
Political oppression in China is worse now than it was in 1989, and Beijing wants to influence the economic, political and social situation in Taiwan, with the goal of annexing it. This is why civic groups have been stressing that interactions with Beijing must be based on the precondition of human rights. One of the Sunflower movement leaders, Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), put it well when he said that the Taiwanese should not be concerned about the Tiananmen Massacre, in the nationalistic sense that the Chinese people are compatriots, but rather because we are concerned about the Chinese public.
Apart from being concerned about whether Chinese have basic human rights, the Taiwanese government should also reflect on the failures of Taiwan’s China policy following the Tiananmen Massacre, as this is the only way to improve the situation in the face of constant pressure from Beijing.
The US is a case in point. After the Tiananmen Massacre, the US and other countries in the West imposed economic sanctions and an arms embargo on China, and when he was running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton described China’s leaders as the “butchers of Beijing.”
Although the Tiananmen Square Massacre and economic sanctions caused some temporary disruption to China’s economy and foreign investors were still staying away in 1991, former US ambassador to China Winston Lord recently told the US Congress that the US government at that time was not internally consistent in its dealings with China.
Lord said trade departments within the government were not overly concerned with human rights and economic sanctions and that Clinton did not support the State Department after he was elected. The result was that human rights were disconnected from trade and economic issues, and the pressure on China to implement human rights ended up having no effect.
In comparison, after the Tiananmen Massacre, the Taiwanese government strongly condemned the Chinese authorities and assisted some of the key individuals in the Chinese student movement. However, the response among the public varied. There were demonstrations in support of the Chinese democracy movement. However, just as the West was imposing economic sanctions on China and travel there was declining rapidly, many Taiwanese took advantage of the situation to travel around China cheaply while Taiwanese businesspeople moved into China in a big way, completely ignoring the warnings that over-reliance on the Chinese economy would cause damage to Taiwan.