Chinese democracy activists and academics panned the Chinese-language Want Daily for skipping mention of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on its “Today on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait” section yesterday.
“Today on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait” is a daily section published by Want Daily, a member of the China Times Group, that recounts historic cross-strait events that occurred on that date.
Although yesterday marked the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the history section on Want Daily did not mention that event.
Instead, Want Daily recounted that Taiwanese singer Hou Teh-chien (侯德建) traveled to China despite being banned by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government on June 4, 1983, and said that Hou was expelled from China in 1990 — without explaining that Hou was expelled because he, along with several Chinese democracy activists, staged a sit-in on Tiananmen Square in support of the student demonstrators.
The newspaper also mentioned that China announced a 1 million-man reduction in its armed forces on June 4, 1985.
“The newspaper is quite innovative to talk about China’s reduction of armed forces, but not Tiananmen Square,” Wang Dan (王丹), one of the Tiananmen Square student leaders who is now in exile in the US, told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) yesterday.
“The disappearance of the Tiananmen Massacre from a newspaper in Taiwan — a place with a high degree of press freedom — shows that China’s influence has already penetrated into Taiwan,” he said. “If Taiwan cannot insist on its press freedom, it’s a tragedy for Taiwan.”
Chen Shun-hsiao (陳順孝), associate professor at Fujen Catholic University’s Department of Journalism and Communication Studies, said he was not surprised that Want Daily would refrain from mentioning the Tiananmen Massacre.
“Ever since its acquisition by Want Want Group, media outlets affiliated with the China Times Group do not report on anything that China doesn’t like,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with newspapers holding different political views, but the extreme China-leaning stance that the China Times and the Want Daily are taking is beyond acceptable.”
Want Daily was founded last year after Want Want Group (旺旺集團), headed by Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), a Taiwanese businessman with massive investments in China, acquired the China Times Group.
Asked for comment, Want Daily editorial writer Yang Wei-chung (楊偉中) said the newspaper had no special consideration on whether to mention the Tiananmen Square.
“If you take a closer look, you see that we mentioned Hou, and what happened to him is related to Tiananmen Square,” he told the Taipei Times. “Tiananmen Square is something that the whole world knows about, but we wanted to remind our readers about things that they may not know or have forgotten.”
In related news, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday urged China to treat democracy activists with more tolerance on the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, adding that China should take necessary steps to console massacre victims and their family members.
Ma said in a written statement that Taiwan commemorated the massacre because the public remembered the 228 Incident and the White Terror in the 1950s, and called on China to learn from Taiwan and face its past human rights incidents with sincerity.
“A government should be responsible for any violent clashes with its people ... when a government uses violence against its people, it takes a very long time to regain the people’s trust,” Ma said, urging China to face the situation and regain public trust by being patient and tolerant.
Ma praised China’s efforts to promote traditional Chinese culture, push for economic development and improve cross-strait relations. He said the Chinese government should show sincerity and treat opposition groups with tolerance.
“By doing this, the Chinese government will gain people’s trust and narrow the gap between the two sides in handling human right issues,” he said.
China will also improve its international reputation if it steps up efforts to improve human rights, he said.
Ma, who during his terms as Taipei mayor was a vocal critic of Beijing’s crackdown on the 1989 protests, has kept a low profile on the subject since taking office. He issued statements on the incident’s anniversary in the last two years, but did not attend any commemorative events.
Ma drew criticism last year for declining to meet Wang one month before the Tiananmen Massacre anniversary.
Additional reporting: Hsieh Wen-hua and Mo Yan-chih