Blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) said in a speech in New York on Thursday that Taiwan has proven that democracy can take root in a Chinese society.
In his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations — an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank and publisher — Chen said that the Chinese government has always claimed that it cannot replicate the Western model of democratization, but he added that it can still learn from Eastern democracies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Chen mentioned Taiwan as an example because the country has been able since 1987 to peacefully transition from a highly dictatorial party-controlled system into a democratic state.
Asked about his thoughts on former Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong’s (陳希同) apology for and reassessment of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in a book to be released in Hong Kong, Chen said that it “makes no sense.”
“Whoever is in control is the person who should be responsible for the problems in society,” said Chen.
“If you control all the resources in your hands, but you won’t assume the responsibility, that makes no sense,” he said.
He urged China’s central government to get its facts straight about the massacre and to “stop trying to put a lid on it.”
The human rights activist pointed out that China is in a state of historic transition and that at this time, “international concern is very important.”
However, Chen said that in the end, the development of a civil society still depends on the country’s people and it requires their participation. He added that he believed any transition would be gradual.
As for his thoughts on escaping house arrest and seeking sanctuary at the US embassy in Beijing in late April, Chen said he did not like the word “fleeing,” as he was only seeking “refuge.”
He said it was a total coincidence that his flight to the embassy coincided with a US-China strategic and economic dialogue, pointing out that he had been isolated from the outside world for a very long time.