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Saluting democracy: 'Bluebird' protesters remember June 4 Incident

06/04/2024 07:55 PM
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Lit candles are placed at a commemorative event for the June 4th Incident on Tuesday, near a painting of a man standing in front of tanks. The painting serves as a tribute to the "Tank Man," an unidentified individual who stood in front of a column of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. CNA photo June 4, 2024
Lit candles are placed at a commemorative event for the June 4th Incident on Tuesday, near a painting of a man standing in front of tanks. The painting serves as a tribute to the "Tank Man," an unidentified individual who stood in front of a column of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. CNA photo June 4, 2024

Taipei, June 4 (CNA) While the June 4 Incident may have occurred 35 years ago, it symbolized a generation's pursuit of democracy, according to some young protesters who were part of the recent "Bluebird Movement" in Taiwan.

Speaking to CNA on the 35th anniversary of the bloody crackdown in China, the protesters noted that despite being decades apart, the two movements shared similar values.

Lee Chun-han (李俊翰), a National Taiwan University student, said what happened in China strengthened the determination of people like him to take to the streets to defend the democratic system even more.

Lee was one of the tens of thousands of protesters who gathered outside the Legislative Yuan in late May to protest against the opposition parties' pushing through legislation giving legislators greater investigative powers.

Operating what he called a tank -- modified from a campaign vehicle -- alongside his schoolmates during the rally, Lee said the Bluebird Movement had significant meaning.

"We can run our 'tank' and there won't really be tanks rolling over us; but there will be (in China), so that's why we need to stand up now," he said.

The Bluebird Movement was born after the Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP), which won a majority in the 113-seat Legislature in a national election in January, joined forces to pass the third reading of amendments to the Law Governing the Legislative Yuan's Power.

People took to the street on May 28 to protest against legislative reform bills. CNA file photo
People took to the street on May 28 to protest against legislative reform bills. CNA file photo

The demonstrators gathered on Qingdao East Road outside the Legislature, Qingdao being the name of a Chinese City in Shandong Province, China, which can be translated literally as "Blue Island East Road."

The Chinese characters for bird (niao) and island (dao) look similar, and the name bluebird was used to avoid social media algorithms flagging related posts as political and decreasing their traffic.

The peaceful rally learned from the experiences of earlier protests in Taiwan -- such as the Wild Lily Movement in 1990 and the Sunflower Student Movement in 2014 -- as well as Hong Kong's Anti-Extradition Bill Movement between 2019-2020.

Update: Cabinet to have Legislature reconsider 'unconstitutional' amendments (June 6)

While the June 4 Incident appears more distant to Lee, he said he still participates in commemoration events each year to pay respect to those who sacrificed for democracy.

Lee's schoolmate, Hsieh Hsin-yen (謝昕諺), said he does not consider the June 4 Incident to be unrelated to Taiwan, as more and more local people have come to view it.

"I actually don't hate Chinese people, but I dislike the Chinese government," Hsieh said.

"The June 4 Incident is not just an 'affair of some other country' that has nothing to do with us," he said. "If China could democratize, we would be very hopeful and happy, as the country has a close relationship with us."

CNA photo June 4, 2024
CNA photo June 4, 2024

Hsiao Wen (小亘) and Hsiao Yu (小妤), two high schoolers whose street protest experiences dates back to the Sunflower Movement with their parents, felt the same.

"People with similar positions should support each other and unite to have a chance of victory," they said.

A protester surnamed Teng (鄧) said she does not have a deep emotional connection to the June 4 Incident, adding that she sees related commemoration events only as an opportunity to observe China's manipulation of public opinion.

"I am interested in whether there are any changes this year, whether they are controlling certain types of speech, employing new measures, or if they have issued new statements," she said.

Taiwan's Legislature passed the reform bills on May 28, giving lawmakers the power to conduct investigations and hold hearings, which includes fining public officials and related individuals if they refuse to attend or provide requested information.

(By Liao Wen-chi and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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