TT: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and there are news reports saying how young people in China don’t seem to have any idea what it was. Are you concerned about this? Do you think people within China’s current system miss Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽)?
Bao Pu (鮑樸): I wouldn’t worry about that. I am not really worried about the so-called memory loss. I bet the memory of Tiananmen haunts the Chinese government the most and that [its officials] never forgot it for a single minute because they have guarded [information about] Tiananmen Square for 20 years. So if the government cannot forget, how can the people? The government would have to act on their memory. It affects their policy, it underlies their attitude toward everything.
In the new generation, if any of them — and I am sure there are some — are interested in politics, they are going to be the future generation of leaders. And once they are interested in politics and social issues, they will know for sure what happened. So it will all go back to that focal point. I wouldn’t be so worried if you were not there, or was not even born [when the massacre occurred]. If individuals happened to be only interested in playing video games for the rest of their lives, fine, but they wouldn’t have any kind of input into the political future anyway.
TT: This year again we saw a really large turnout in Hong Kong for commemorations of the Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary. By comparison, very few people in Taiwan turned out. What are your thoughts on that?
Bao: The difference is that people in Hong Kong have no choice. They also have a tradition of involvement in China’s political progress for the past 100 years. Because Taiwan is not ruled by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government, there is a political [tendency] to mask feelings about how they might relate to mainland China. The lack of interest is, I think, wrong, because, you know, Chinese democracy in mainland China and whatever the outcome in Taiwan [regarding unification], it will affect Taiwan’s future in real terms. I think it is sort of playing ostrich if you don’t take an interest in political progress in mainland China. Whatever your views on Taiwan’s future, whether you like it or not, Beijing is going to affect you in real terms. So you had better deal with it and face it.
TT: What role, if any, do you think Taiwan can or should play in the process of democratization in China?
Bao: Mainland China must resolve its differences between the government and the people before it can be dealt with at the political level. Also, any government of Taiwan would have to really put promoting democracy in China as an important aspect of its agenda. If Beijing has the objective of reuniting [sic] with Taiwan, then obviously Taiwan needs to have preconditions for the talks.
And I think the compatibility of political systems should be the precondition. Once you make sure that you are on the same value system, then it is a different ball game.
TT: Where do you think China is now in terms of reform?
Bao: The reform process practically ended in 1992 after [then Chinese leader] Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) southern tour [of China] because the debate was over and China was on its course — that is, a commitment to free market and also a renewed sense of authoritarian autocracy. So there was no more debate, no more packaging or proposals for political reform and it’s actually been continuing since then.