TAIPEI (Reuters) - China continues to cover up the truth about the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, Taiwan’s president said on Tuesday, ahead of vigils in the region to commemorate the event.
Chinese troops opened fire to end the student-led unrest, with the death toll ranging from several hundred to several thousand, according to witnesses and rights groups.
Chinese authorities ban any public commemoration and have never released a full death toll.
“The Chinese government not only did not plan to repent for the past mistake, but it also continued to cover up the truth,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post.
“Please be reassured - Taiwan will definitely defend democracy and freedom. Regardless of threats and infiltration, as long as I’m the president, Taiwan will not bow to pressure,” she said.
The post, which was accompanied by a cartoon of Tsai holding a candle, also expressed concern for China’s “erosion of freedom” in Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula.
Democratic Taiwan tends to use the Tiananmen Square anniversary to criticise China and call for it to face up to its actions. China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its sacred territory, to be taken back by force if necessary.
Tsai’s comments came ahead of large candlelight vigils in the region, including in Taipei and Hong Kong.
The chairman of Apple supplier Foxconn, Terry Gou, who is seeking to represent the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party in Taiwan’s presidential election in January, said Taiwan’s democratic development was a “beacon light” for China.
“I have always been deeply saddened and sympathetic towards all the civilians and their families who were harmed... This is a historic wound that should have been appeased and healed,” Gou told reporters in Taipei.
Beijing has increased government suppression of rights activism, pushing the demonstrators’ original goals further away than ever.
Financial information provider Refinitiv, under pressure from China’s government, has removed from its Eikon terminal Reuters news stories related to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.
Tsai’s government urged Beijing on Monday to “sincerely repent” for the Tiananmen crackdown, while a Chinese newspaper said nobody in China was interested in dragging up the past.
China suspects Tsai and her ruling party of pushing formal independence for Taiwan, a red line for China.
Reporting By Yimou Lee; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree, Paul Tait and Nick Macfie