BEIJING (AP) — Commemorations were held in Taiwan and elsewhere ahead of the 27th anniversary of China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, while the government in China, where the incident remains a taboo topic, said it had long ago turned the page on the "political turmoil."
Former student leader Wu'er Kaixi was joined by lawmakers outside Taiwan's parliament on Friday to mark the June 4, 1989, military assault that left hundreds, possibly thousands, dead. Taiwan's democratic politics and open society have long been a counterpoint to China's authoritarian one-party system, which permits no discussion of the crackdown or memorials for the victims.
Wu'er said the Chinese government continues to prevent him from returning to China and bars his elderly parents from traveling to meet him and their grandson outside the country.
"This is what a so-called great nation has done to me," Wu'er said. "We are facing a nasty and brutal China."
Wu'er fled China after the crackdown, in which he was named the second most wanted among the student leaders. Unable to return home, he married a Taiwanese woman and settled on the island in 1996. Earlier this year he ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the legislature.
With the anniversary looming, security in China has been tightened and victims' family members have been placed under additional restrictions. At least half a dozen people have reportedly been detained for attempting to commemorate the events, although a small group wearing T-shirts condemning the crackdown converged on the square on Sunday, among them former house painter Qi Zhiyong, who had both of his legs amputated after being shot by martial law troops.
In Washington, D.C., the State Department called for a "full public accounting of those killed, detained, or missing and for an end to censorship of discussions about the events of June 4, 1989, as well as an end to harassment and detention of those who wish to peacefully commemorate the anniversary."
In a statement, it also urged the Chinese government to respect the rights and freedoms of all its citizens.
Asked about the anniversary, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had "long ago reached a clear conclusion about the political turmoil at the end of 1980s and other related issues."
China's explosive economic growth in the years that followed "proves that the path of socialism with Chinese characters we chose to follow ... is in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese people, and it represents a wish shared by them all," Hua told reporters at a daily news briefing.
Another former student leader, Wang Dan, told a news conference in Tokyo that China's post-crackdown development proves it isn't necessarily true that economic growth will eventually lead to democracy.
Wang, now a professor in Taiwan, said holding such memorials was about more than just remembering the 1989 events.
"It's a gesture to show your political position," he said. "It's a gesture to fight against the view of the Communist Party."
Associated Press journalists Johnson Lai in Taipei, Taiwan, Emily Wang in Tokyo, and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.