TAIPEI—Taiwan urged China on Thursday to return power to the people and embark on real political reform rather than avoid facing up to the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.
Friday marks 32 years since Chinese troops opened fire to end the student-led unrest in and around the square. Chinese authorities ban any public commemoration of the event on the mainland.
The government has never released a full death toll, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.
The government of democratically ruled and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, in a statement on the anniversary’s eve, said Beijing was avoiding an apology over what had happened or reflection on its mistakes.
“We express regret, and call on the other side to implement people-centered political reforms, stop suppressing people’s democratic demands, and return power to the people as soon as possible,” the Taiwanese government said.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed comments about the anniversary.
“The great achievements made since the founding of new China more than 70 years ago fully demonstrate that China’s choice of development path is completely correct,” he said, referring to the founding of Communist China in 1949.
Calling China’s ruling Communist Party a “one-party dictatorship,” the Taiwanese council said Beijing’s repression at home and in Hong Kong had deviated from universal values and international rules.
“They not only deepen the deep-seated social contradictions in their own society, increasing the difficulty of systemic reform, but also create a risk of conflict, affecting regional security and stability.”
Taiwan tends to use the Tiananmen Square anniversary to criticize China and urge it to face up to what it did, to Beijing’s repeated annoyance. China claims Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if necessary.
On Friday, activists will mark the Tiananmen anniversary with at least one public event in Taipei, although considerably scaled down from previous years due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on the island.
By Ben Blanchard