TAPEI, TAIWAN— Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng said on Tuesday that the pushing and shoving that comes with Taiwan's raucous democracy was superior to “having tanks going rampant on the streets and squares," referring to China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on protesters.
Chen, who was invited to Taiwan by a human rights group, sparked a diplomatic crisis between the United States and China after he fled house arrest in China and sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
He has been a research fellow at New York University Law School since he flew to the United States in May 2012. Chen has accused NYU of bowing to Chinese pressure to ask him to leave. On Monday, he refused to shed light on the issue.
“Taiwan's experience is a valuable asset. A good use of it could let China get rid of dictatorship and walk on the path to democracy more easily,'' Chen told reporters.
“It's better to have pushing and shoving in a parliament hall than having tanks going rampant on the streets and squares.''
He said civil awareness in China had risen a lot and China today was like Taiwan in the early 1980s, laying down the basis for democracy.
China had warned Chen to mind his language and protect China's “dignity'' on his visit to self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own and insists must unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Chen, who has been blind since childhood, is a self-schooled legal advocate who campaigned against forced abortions. He was jailed for four years on charges that he and his supporters said were spurious, and then held in his village home for 19 months after being released.
Public discussion of the Tiananmen Square crackdown is still taboo in China, where on June 3 and June 4, 1989, its leaders ordered troops to open fire on demonstrators and sent in tanks to crush a student-led campaign movement, killing hundreds.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists.
When asked about Chen's comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “Every Chinese citizen has the duty and responsibility to abide by China's constitution and law, and should not say or do things that harm China's national interests.''
Taiwan began dismantling the structures of decades of iron-fisted rule by Nationalist dictator Chiang Kai-shek in the 1980s, allowing the formation of new political parties and replacing appointed politicians with elected ones.
The reforms spawned a feisty brand of democracy. It is common for lawmakers to shout and punch their way through parliament sessions while voting and approving laws.
Taiwan regularly plays host to people China despises, including exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. It is also home to two leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests who escaped China - Wang Dan and Wu'er Kaixi.
On Tuesday, about 30 to 40 lawmakers shoved each other in parliament while arguing over a cross-straits services agreement. A legislator from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, a man, grabbed the arm of a female legislator from the Nationalist Party, who started crying.