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Business mogul makes public appeal amid row over Tiananmen remarks

Business mogul makes public appeal amid row over Tiananmen remarks

Taipei, Feb. 10 (CNA) A business mogul who recently set off a firestorm of criticism over his remarks on the 1989 Tiananmen Incident published an open letter Friday in one of his newspapers, asking the public not to doubt his commitment to democracy and freedom of speech. Tsai Eng-meng, chairman of the media conglomerate Want Want Group and the Chinese-language China Times, said he was upset by the recent controversy over his questioning of whether the 1989 crackdown in Beijing constituted a massacre. "I am very sad from the bottom of my heart that the intellectual community has decided to boycott the China Times because of a misleading report that was obviously trying to hurt me," Tsai said in the letter, published on Page 2 of the paper. The entrepreneur was referring to a recent interview with the Washington Post, in which he appeared to be saying that the massacre reports were false. According to the Washington Post, Tsai said he was struck by footage at the time of a lone protester standing in front of a People's Liberation Army tank and said the fact that the man wasn't killed showed that the incident was not necessarily a massacre. "I realized that not that many people could really have died," Tsai was quoted as saying. His comments sparked strong criticism among scholars, journalists and human rights activists in Taiwan, including Wang Dan, an exiled student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy protest. In addition, more than 60 local intellectuals launched a campaign Tuesday to boycott the China Times, demanding that Tsai explain his views to the public as promised. However, in Friday's letter, Tsai said he could not keep that promise because a bias against him had already been formed. "The group has prepared certain 'topics' for me to answer, which makes it an 'open trail' against me personally instead of a dialogue," he said. "How can I respond positively?" In its boycott petition, the group raised a number of questions, including the issue of how media proprietors should deal with editorial judgment and freedom of speech. The question was in reference to one of Tsai's comments in the Washington Post article that journalists are free to criticize but "need to think carefully before they write" and avoid "insults" that cause offense. The intellectuals also zoomed in on China's human rights record. "What are the historic facts of the Tiananmen Incident and the current state of human rights in China?" they asked. Meanwhile, in his open letter, Tsai offered to apologize if anything he said in the interview was disrespectful to the "mainland compatriots who suffered during the Tiananmen Incident" or had hurt his Taiwanese compatriots. "I love Taiwan," he said. "I have always respected press freedom." In response, the intellectuals said they did not buy Tsai's explanations since he had once again tried to use one of his media outlets as his mouthpiece. "May I ask what or who does China Times represent?" said K.C. Huang, president of the Taipei Society, of which Wang is member. "The letter only proves that our boycott decision was the right one," Huang said. "Tsai's letter is a well-written article -- that's all." (By Lee Hsin-Yin)


Updated : 2021-10-21 14:24 GMT+08:00