Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The June Fourth incident, Taipei

Taiwan reacted strongly to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, with many denouncing the Chinese communists and calling for democracy for their ‘compatriots’ — even though freedom was still limited in Taiwan at the time

By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

A news clipping from the Liberty Times featuring student protests in Taiwan against the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989.

Photo: Wu Jen-lin, Taipei Times

June 4 to June 10

The screen shows a photo of crying schoolgirls as the Taiwan Television (TTV, 台視) newscaster describes how much agony the people of Taiwan feel for their suffering “compatriots” and how they hope that “freedom and democracy can one day truly be enjoyed by every Chinese person.”

The screen cuts to more clips of sobbing people.

“In Beiping, brave Chinese people are writing history with their blood,” says an on-site reporter using the former name of Beijing. “In Taipei, grief-stricken Chinese people are witnessing it with their tears.”

Watching these news clips brings the viewer back to a completely different political climate. Taiwan was two years removed from martial law and democracy was barely in its infant state, but its authoritarian government had actually been claiming to be a democracy for the previous decades while denouncing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a brutal dictatorship. As such, all following claims of “democracy” are simply propaganda as Taiwan was pretty much just as authoritarian as China was at that point.

Beiping had been renamed Beijing decades prior, but the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), whose capital was in Nanjing when it ruled China, refused to acknowledge any alterations made after its retreat to Taiwan. And since the party claimed to rule both China and Taiwan, a massacre in Beijing was mourned as a domestic tragedy.

Memorials for the event are still held in Taiwan today, but the change in rhetoric over the past three decades has been remarkable.


Taiwanese had been closely watching the developments in Tiananmen Square since unrest begin in April 1989, through the hunger strikes and declaration of martial law on May 20, with gatherings held to support the protesters.

On June 2, the Liberty Times (the sister paper of the Taipei Times) ran a front page photo tiled “No fear of wind and rain” with students under umbrellas holding a sign that read, “We are against the Chinese Communists cracking down on democratic student protests.”

But nobody was prepared for what would happen on June 3. That night, a live-broadcast joint concert between Taipei and Beijing was interrupted at around 11pm as word came that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was closing in on Tiananmen square. The audience at Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall could clearly hear the Chinese protesters chanting slogans on the big screen. By midnight, word arrived that the PLA had opened fire on protesters as they made their way toward the square.

The concert was cut short, but the people in Taiwan remained at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, sitting down to protest in silence. By press time, the Liberty Times reported that more than 10,000 agitated civilians and celebrities were still on site.

The next day’s paper was plastered with editorials denouncing the violence as well as responses from government officials. President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) publicly addressed the incident for the first time: “Although we have predicted these insane actions of the Chinese Communist Party, we still feel immense grief, anger and shock.”

“We believe that any government should be built upon the will of the people. Although the CCP robbed the mainland from us through violence and lies, the internal conflict and oppression of its people has not ceased in 40 years .... I, Teng-hui, with a heavy heart, call for the people around the world who love freedom and respect human rights to harshly condemn the CCP … The tyranny of the CCP is the utmost disgrace to Chinese all around the world.”

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