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Around 2,000 attend Taipei vigil to remember Tiananmen Square massacre

06/04/2024 11:11 PM
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CNA photo June 4, 2024
CNA photo June 4, 2024

Taipei, June 4 (CNA) Around 2,000 attended an annual candlelight vigil in Taipei to commemorate the June Fourth Incident, a violent crackdown by Chinese authorities on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square 35 years ago, according to the organizer.

The candlelight vigil, organized by the New School for Democracy and other human rights groups, started at 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday at Democracy Boulevard outside Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, with the theme "Ideals are bullet-proof."

As of 7:30 p.m., the organizer claimed around 2,000 people -- many of them Hong Kongers living in Taiwan -- had attended the vigil, during which human rights advocates from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and other countries gave short speeches.

Wu Renhua, a Chinese scholar and survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre, gives a speech during the June 4 candlelight vigil in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo June 4, 2024
Wu Renhua, a Chinese scholar and survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre, gives a speech during the June 4 candlelight vigil in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo June 4, 2024

Among those who gave a speech on stage, Wu Renhua (吳仁華), a Chinese scholar and survivor of the 1989 massacre, said that what he witnessed was hard to forget, including a tank driving into a crowd, causing 11 deaths and many injuries.

Vowing to keep this memory alive, Wu said that one of the reasons to commemorate the incident in Taiwan is to ensure young people in Taiwan see the authoritarian and brutal nature of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.

"Today, the only threat or the greatest threat to democratic Taiwan and to other democratic countries comes from this authoritarian regime," Wu said, adding that joining the vigil can once again expose the brutality of the regime.

First-time participant Lita Lu is interviewed before the start of the June 4 candlelight vigil in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo June 4, 2024
First-time participant Lita Lu is interviewed before the start of the June 4 candlelight vigil in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo June 4, 2024

As a Taiwanese, 28-year-old Lita Lu (呂梓彤) said that her knowledge of the June Fourth Incident mainly comes from history textbooks, which mention the student-led protest that later endured bloody suppression.

"Our understanding is often limited to these partial accounts," the first-time participant said.

If Taiwanese want to continue to preserve their freedom under military and political threats from China every day, then those on the island must learn from past historical events, Lu noted.

"Hong Kong has now experienced many things that were unimaginable in the past. Therefore, we cannot predict what the future will hold," Lu added. "We can only remain vigilant by (learning from) the events of the present and the past."

Pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong used to hold a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island every year on June 4 with tens of thousands of participants, but the Hong Kong authorities banned the event in 2020, citing COVID-19 concerns.

No large-scale candlelight vigil has been held in Hong Kong since the passing of the Hong Kong national security law on June 30, 2020.

Dissident Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee poses for a photo when attending the June 4 candlelight vigil in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo June 4, 2024
Dissident Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee poses for a photo when attending the June 4 candlelight vigil in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo June 4, 2024

Having attended almost every candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, dissident Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee (林榮基) participated in every vigil held in Taipei after fleeing to Taiwan in 2019 over fears of being arrested for selling books critical of the CCP.

While some Taiwanese may question why it is necessary to care about an incident that took place in China 35 years ago, Lam said that students in Hong Kong used to ask the same question.

"If you stand from the perspective of universal values and human rights, you should get involved (in the commemoration) as it is a human rights issue -- everyone knows that the June Fourth Incident was a massacre," Lam said.

When compared to the candlelight vigils held in other parts of the world, the one in Taiwan has more participants, the 68-year-old said.

"Although the level of participation by Taiwanese is not ideal, this is clearly the last stronghold," Lam added.

(By Sunny Lai)

Enditem/AW

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