TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former White House official and current CEO of DC International Advisory Stephen J. Yates told Taiwan News on Monday (June 3) that Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe's (魏鳳和) attempt to justify Tiananmen crackdown is "outrageous."
Wei, while attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday, called the 1989 protests "political turmoil that the central government needed to quell, which was the correct policy."
On the night of June 3 in 1989, the Chinese government ordered armed troops to open fire on students and citizens demanding democracy and freedom. The estimated death toll, according to human rights groups, was in the thousands.
"What he [Wei] is asking us to do, is to ignore our own eyes in terms of what we witnessed," said Yates. "This is frankly what communist leaders do, it is what dictators do. I think it was deeply, deeply offensive."
Yates said he was in Taiwan when students gathered at the Tiananmen square in 1989. “As the demonstration lingered for a long time, people began to get almost a little optimistic, 'maybe something’s changing,'" Yates recalled his own memory of the event. "In the morning of June 4, we started seeing reports of the absolutely astronomical number of casualties and images that were extremely haunting and horrifying."
Calling the minister's remarks inappropriate and inaccurate, Yates said he wished more people from the diplomatic community would have spoken out immediately against such rhetoric. "What he said is not conducive to calming tensions in the Indo-Pacific region."
Yates also criticized China's military expansionism, calling Wei's remarks "chilling" and "immoral." Yates said, "here we have the most rapidly growing military and most aggressive territorial [claimant] in Asia and its defense leader basically trying to say 'it is no problem to kill thousands of its own people.'"