In 1989, hundreds of thousands of students, workers and others crowded into Tiananmen Square to demand that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reform itself. Then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) gave orders to crack down, and on June 4, the People’s Liberation Army dispatched tanks and troops armed with machine guns and opened fired on unarmed people in the square. Many civilians were injured or killed in the resulting bloodbath, which has become known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The bloody suppression of the protest has helped the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) retain power. But since that time communist parties throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have been dumped onto the trash pile of history due to pressures of democratization from mass movements.
The Tiananmen Square Massacre was condemned by all developed nations. Taiwan’s then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) spoke out in support of justice.
China, however, has always insisted that this tragedy was a case of “counterrevolutionary turmoil” caused by a minority of miscreants. It has been unwilling to reveal the truth about the incident and rehabilitate those who suffered or died as a result of it.
Every year, many democratic nations, politicians, activists and non-governmental groups release statements and hold events to show support for those who suffered as a result of June 4 in a bid to ensure the CCP cannot escape responsibility for its bloody history.
Before he was elected president, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was one of those who spoke out in support of those who suffered as a result of the massacre. Every year, he would publish an article on June 4 in memory of the tragedy and to demand the movement’s rehabilitation by the CCP.
Ma used to rely on statements about the massacre to gain media coverage, but after becoming president, he has chosen to side with those in power. He used a bunch of excuses to cover up for his unwillingness to meet with the former leaders of the June 4 democracy movement and then decided to visit Central America and not return to Taiwan until the night of June 4 in an apparent attempt to ignore the intolerable legacy of the events in Tiananmen Square.
Ma’s is free to forget June 4, treat it in a perfunctory manner and distance himself from it. He has given speeches and made statements to justify his new position, but amazingly, these speeches and statements have praised the CCP’s development and openness.
Last year, for example, Ma’s June 4 speech contained no criticism of the CCP’s use of force to suppress the protests or any mention of being anti-communist but not anti-China. On the contrary, he complimented the CCP for the way in which it dealt with the Sichuan earthquake the previous month, praising the speed at which the Chinese authorities rescued victims, the care they showed them and the openness of media reporting on demonstrations about the earthquake.
In his “Observations on the 20th Anniversary of the June 4th Incident” this year, Ma’s praise of the CCP was more earnest. There were no comments about how there would be no basis for cross-strait unification if China continued to refuse to rehabilitate the June 4 protesters.
Instead, Ma displayed a slave mentality, saying: “Great changes have taken place on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in the two decades since the June 4 Incident. Successful economic reforms in mainland China have brought tremendous improvements to the quality of life there. Over the past decade, the mainland authorities have paid greater attention to human rights than before. China has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, it has published a series of white papers on human rights, and just this past April took an even more concrete step forward by formally adopting the National Human Rights Action Plan of China” and how “this shows a robust openness and confidence on their part, the likes of which we have not seen from them in the past.”
Ma will doubtless use such rhetoric in the future to defend dictatorship. The CCP has signed several human rights covenants and action plans, which Ma describes as China’s willingness to face the issue of human rights and the embodiment of openness and self-confidence. This is simply a joke.
Many countries have constitutions unequivocally guaranteeing the human rights and freedom of its citizens. However, a constitution must be acted on, otherwise all the ideals and promises in the world are just empty talk.
The same Constitution that governed Taiwan during the Martial Law era governs today’s democracy, with clauses that protect human rights and freedom. However, when these clauses conflicted with totalitarian instruments such as the Taiwan Garrison Command and the intelligence network, they weren’t worth the paper they were written on.
Dictators are especially fond of talking about “the people” and “democracy,” but when they want to lock up their opponents, human rights articles become disposable.
Taiwanese who lived through the authoritarian era understand the meaning and the truth of these simple concepts and historical facts.
How can it be that Ma does not?
It is both tragic and shameless for Ma to defend China by saying that Beijing has signed key human rights covenants when he knows that doing so will not in itself bring freedom and democracy.
June 4 is not all Ma wants to forget. He believes that words and clauses in human rights covenants equal real democracy. The democracy and human rights clauses in the Republic of China Constitution are being used by the Ma administration to cover up its anti-democratic and anti-human rights practices.
Ma’s “Observations on the 20th Anniversary of the June 4th Incident” clearly illustrate sympathy for the lot of the authoritarian ruler.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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