TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Prominent exiled Chinese dissident Wu'er Kaixi announced his candidacy Friday for a seat in Taiwan's parliament, saying he wants to serve as a check on the ruling Nationalist Party and help shore up the island's global status.
The former co-leader of 1989 student-led pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square said he would fight for human rights, environmental protection and social justice amid a growing wealth divide within Taiwanese society.
Wu'er said he would take a tougher approach to Taiwan's relations with mainland China, from which the island split in 1949 and remains locked in a tense rivalry for international recognition.
"Self-censorship has been the main theme of Taiwan's cross-(Taiwan) Strait relations. It is not working," Wu'er said, while also chastising the U.S. and other major nations for going along with what he called Chinese bullying of Taiwan's democratic government.
Wu'er fled China after the military crushed the 1989 protests, killing hundreds. He was the second most wanted among the student leaders after famously berating then-premier Li Peng in a televised meeting. Unable to return home, he married a Taiwanese woman and settled on the island in 1996.
China's authoritarian Communist Party-led government says its crackdown on the protests was necessary to maintain order and contain unrest. In the years since, the party has enforced strict limits on civil freedoms and rejected any notion of democratic reforms. Taiwan, meanwhile, has blossomed into a flourishing democracy with lively electoral politics and an outspoken media.
Dressed casually and answering questions in both Chinese and English, Wu'er said he saw no contradiction between his Chinese roots and commitment to Taiwanese democracy.
"China is the home of my parents. Taiwan is the home of my children," Wu'er said. "My standpoint, my view, my idea of promoting democracy and freedom for my homes has been consistent."
Wu'er, 47, is running as an independent from the central city of Taichung.