Taiwan subverted China’s Hong Kong crackdown on vigils commemorating those killed in Tiananmen Square, with hundreds flocking to the island to honor the lives lost 33 years ago.
The movement to Taiwan follows China banning Tiananmen Square vigils in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, where the demonstrations occurred in 1989. The Hong Kong Catholic diocese’s announcement last month that it would not hold a memorial Mass marked the first time in 30 years that there would not be a large-scale organized memorial for the victims of the government shutdown of the June 4, 1989, protest.
“Taiwan has become very important. It has become the only place in the Chinese-speaking world where June 4th can be openly remembered,” Wu Renhua, a former protester in Tiananmen, told 2,000 protesters who gathered in Taipei’s Liberty Square. “Preserving history is also a form of resistance.”
Taiwan’s president celebrated the demonstrations.
“We believe such brute force cannot erase people’s memories,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement Saturday. “When democracy is under threat … it is more necessary to uphold democratic values.”
Events honoring the massacre in Tiananmen Square, where at least 200 pro-democracy protesters were killed by the Chinese Communist Party, include a play that tells the story of an elderly couple whose child died at the protest and an art exhibit titled “Rather than die in silence, live in resistance,” which features gas masks, Molotov cocktails, and other artifacts from the protest.
The vigils are an important way of safeguarding human rights in China and supporting democracy, according to Chien-yuan Tseng, the president of the New School for Democracy.
“Over the past 33 years, the meaning of June 4 is expanding,” Tseng told the outlet. “This means the regime that cracked down on its people is getting stronger, and we face more difficulties defending democracy.”
China has been accused of multiple human rights violations, notably its treatment of Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority, who have been sent to what China terms “re-education centers.”
Despite China’s order to not hold vigils at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, residents continued to make small displays honoring those who died, including wearing black shirts and holding up images of candles on their cellphones.