One of the top student leaders during the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989 has called for a boycott of the China Times after the wealthy Taiwanese entrepreneur who owns the publication denied the crackdown by the Chinese military constituted a massacre.
Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), chairman and chief executive of the Want Want Group (旺旺集團), which owns the China Times, told the Washington Post in an interview published last Saturday that the crackdown on June 4 was “no massacre.”
Tsai told the Post he had been struck by footage of the lone protester standing in front of a People’s Liberation Army tank — a now iconic image of the crackdown — and added that the fact that the man was not killed was proof that reports of a massacre were false.
Several hundred unarmed protesters, including students, were brutally killed in the government response to the protests.
“I realized that not that many people could really have died,” Tsai said, echoing Beijing’s propaganda in the weeks after the crackdown, which said the tank incident was proof that the military had acted with humanity against the demonstrators.
Wang Dan (王丹), one of the student leaders at Tiananmen Square who now lives in Taiwan, was among many who reacted angrily to Tsai’s remarks.
“Such remarks are effrontery,” Wang wrote in a Tweet on Monday. “From now on, I will never buy a copy of the China Times newspaper.”
Several netizens have also vowed to boycott food products from Tsai’s business chains, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Tuesday. At press time last night, a “Resist the Want Want Group” page created on Facebook on Tuesday — whose boycott will continue until April 24 — had attracted 405 followers.
Want Want Group has made its fortune selling food products in China, where it makes 90 percent of its profit. Tsai also runs several hotels in Shanghai, Nanjing, Huai-an and Xining, and he has made various real-estate investments in China.
Tsai, who according to Forbes is Taiwan’s third-wealthiest individual, in 2008 acquired a controlling 51 percent stake in the China Times Group, which owns the Commercial Times, the China Times Weekly magazine, the Want Daily, the English-language Want China Times and China Television Co.
Some China-based commentators also expressed anger at the business tycoon’s denial of the massacre.
“Tsai’s words are illogical,” Mo Zhixu (莫之許), a Beijing-based cybercommentator, told RFA on Tuesday.
“The murders of June 4 cannot be whitewashed by the fact that the young man who blocked the tanks was not killed right away,” he said.
“Why did he say this? Apparently he is trying to present servile flattery to the Chinese Communist Party government. That is completely unnecessary,” Mo said.
Since Tsai’s acquisition of the China Times Group, media watchdogs have observed that the editorial line of the media within his consortium has softened their stance on China, reportedly so that Tsai can ingratiate himself with the Beijing authorities. The businessman denies those claims and says his only aim is to encourage Taiwanese to abandon their fear of doing business with China.
In the same interview with the Washington Post, Tsai also indicated his support for the unification of Taiwan and China, adding that such an outcome was inevitable.
“Whether you like it or not, unification is going to happen sooner or later,” he said, adding that he “really hoped” a swift merger would occur.