Taipei, June 4 (CNA) Local and international activists commemorated the 29th anniversary of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989 with a rally in Taipei to voice support for human rights and champions of democracy being persecuted by China.
"We cannot afford to forget history. Holding the rally to mark the anniversary is a way to rescue history from the brink of oblivion," said Wu Renhua (吳仁華), a Chinese scholar and participant in the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989.
The massacre of pro-democracy activists in 1989 by Chinese government might have ended, but China's persecution of its own people is still ongoing, Wu said.
"If the history of the Tiananmen movement is forgotten, it would be tantamount to an act of betrayal of the people who died and kowtowing to China's might," he said.
Democracy protesters occupied Tiananmen Square starting in early May 1989 with a host of grievances, including the lack of political freedoms and human rights and China's economic troubles at the time.
Unable to quell the protests, Chinese authorities launched a violent crackdown early in the morning of June 4, firing live rounds into the crowds and strafing streets around the square.
Estimates of the death toll range from the hundreds to the thousands, and the massacre was widely condemned internationally, but China's government represses any mention of that history.
The rally held in Liberty Square attracted several hundred people, who heard speeches delivered by local and international activists that refreshed their memory of the 1989 events and reminded them of the stories of Chinese dissidents.
The speakers highlighted the situations of Liu Xia (劉霞), the widow of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) who has been kept under house arrest for eight years, and Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language promoter who has been sentenced to five years in prison in China.
They also spoke of Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economist serving a life sentence in China, and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), a human rights lawyer held incommunicado in China for nearly three years.
Long Trinh, a Vietnamese activist living in Taiwan, talked about China's impact on other countries today, saying that its "money politics" internationally has helped authoritarian regimes consolidate their rule.
"China has made our region and world more unsafe, posing a threat to human rights everywhere.
"My message today is not for China but for Taiwan. Taiwan has a lot of room for improvement in terms of its democracy, but having Taiwan as a successful democracy in Asia means a lot to those who are skeptical about democracy and human rights in many places," he said.
Cedric Alviani, the head of Reporters Without Borders's East Asia bureau, said the suppression of information in China is very severe today, as the organization ranked China 176 out of 180 countries in its worldwide index of press freedom.
"Freedom of information is a core value RSF is defending because without freedom of information, you can't guarantee human rights," Alviani said, expressing his hope that Taiwan can further develop "the quality of journalism" and "plurality of media."
With that heritage, Taiwan can set an example for Asia and the world that it's possible to develop a society with values of openness and freedom of information, he said.