WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States on Wednesday called on China to account for those killed, detained, or missing in the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, as Washington marked the 25th anniversary of the pro-democracy revolt.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou also on Wednesday described the Tiananmen crackdown as “an enormous historical wound”, urging China to redress the wrongs of the crushed pro-democracy protests 25 years ago.
“Twenty-five years ago, the United States deplored the use of violence to silence the voices of the peaceful demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square,” the statement from the White House said.
It comes as tensions simmer between the two countries on issues ranging from alleged hacking by the Chinese military into private US firms to displeasure in Washington with what it calls Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
“Twenty-five years later, the United States continues to honor the memories of those who gave their lives in and around Tiananmen Square and throughout China, and we call on Chinese authorities to account for those killed, detained, or missing in connection with the events surrounding June 4, 1989,” it added.
The US government and people welcome China’s economic progress over the past decades, and want to maintain good relations, the White House said. But America will not be shy about airing its differences with China, it added.
The United States, it said, will “urge the Chinese government to guarantee the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of all Chinese citizens.”
Ma made the call to China to redress the wrongs of the Tiananmen in his annual statement marking the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown, but was not scheduled to make an appearance at a candle-lit vigil in Taipei later on Wednesday, his office said.
“Facing such an enormous historical wound, I sincerely hope that the mainland authorities will seriously consider and speedily redress the wrongs to ensure that such a tragedy will never happen again,” the leader said in his yearly statement.
Ma reiterated calls on Beijing to treat its dissidents well and to tolerate different opinions.
He also urged Beijing to continue carrying out political reforms such as abolishing the forced labor camps last year, and to make more efforts to promote democracy and human rights protection.
“We hope to see it take more actions to realise democracy and the rule of law and protect human rights,” said Ma.
Taiwan’s government has repeatedly urged China to learn lessons from the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters when troops killed hundreds of unarmed civilians—by some estimates more than 1,000.
The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top China policy-making body, on Tuesday renewed calls on China to face up to history and protect the rights of dissidents.
Reacting to Ma’s statement, Yang Jianli, a prominent US-based Chinese dissident who fled China after the protests, offered praise for his call “for a speedy redress of the wrong of the June 4th incident.”
The vigil in downtown Taipei is expected to attract some 2,000 people, according to organizers.
Ties between Taiwan and China have improved markedly since Ma took office in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform, following eight years of tensions under the previous pro-independence government. He was reelected in 2012 for a final four-year term.
Beijing, however, still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification by force if necessary although they have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.