June 4th is a test of our belief in democracy and human rights

Taiwan’s civil society supports the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of June 4th

We still remember, exactly twenty years ago, how we shed tears as we watched on television the tanks roll into Beijing city, the blood stream down the faces of students and ordinary citizens. We also remember, how Taiwanese politicians both in government and in opposition condemned the Chinese Communist Party, and how celebrities held hands and sang for the demonstrators. We remember, that was the “Wound of History.” [1]

Twenty years later, the people of Taiwan appear to be suffering from collective amnesia. Today, Taiwan’s media and ruling party sing praise for economic development, lauding China’s scenic areas and the impressive architecture in Shanghai and Beijing. We seem to forget that over the past twenty years, China has continued to be ruled by an authoritarian regime. Those who took part in the 1989 demonstration for democracy are still in jail or in exile, and their mothers are still weeping in the darkness. In every corner of China, people are being arrested and locked up for speaking for human rights and protecting minorities. Are we still going to turn a blind eye?

Why should the people of Taiwan pay attention to June 4th? Because this is an important test of our belief in democracy.

First of all, as citizens of a democratic country that fought hard for our democracy, we firmly believe that democracy and human rights are universal values. As we strive to improve our own democracy, we should also care about human rights and democracy in neighboring countries and stand in solidarity with those democracy fighters.

Secondly, the current situation is that economic interests have gained the upper hand in cross-strait relations. Ever since 1989, China has been focused only on making money, while muting all calls for political reform. As Taiwan develops closer ties with China, we seem to have been affected by historical amnesia and democratic apathy. In this atmosphere of cross-strait reconciliation, economic interests have become the top priority whereas human rights seem to be taboo. But if we ignore the call for human rights and democracy out of fear of upsetting China, wouldn’t that be the greatest mockery of the democratic ideals that we ourselves fought so hard for?

We can no longer remain apathetic. On the twentieth anniversary of June 4th, we call on all sectors of Taiwanese society to express our firm commitment to the pursuit of democracy and human rights, to support the prosecution of those responsible for June 4th, and to push for democracy in China.


Mab Huang (黃默), Professor, Soochow University’s Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights

Peter Huang (黃文雄), Chairman, Amnesty International Taiwan

Wang Hsing-chung (王興中), Director, Amnesty International Taiwan

Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳), Secretary-General, Taiwan Association for Human Rights

Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡), Executive Director, Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty

Yiong Cong-ziin (楊長鎮), Executive Director, Deng Liberty Foundation

Li Jieh-mei (李介媚), Office Director, Deng Liberty Foundation

Tieh-chih Chang(張鐵志), Writer

[1] “The Wound of History” was the name of a song that a chorus of Taiwnese pop celebrities sang in support of the Tiananmen demonstrators.