Who should we believe, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, or a billionaire whose fortunes depend largely on Beijing’s goodwill?
Want Want Group (旺旺集團) chairman and chief executive Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) caused a bit of a stir earlier this year when, during an interview with veteran reporter Andrew Higgins of the Washington Post, he argued that the events at Tiananmen Square in June 1989 did not constitute a “massacre.”
Tsai’s comments prompted angry reactions among people in Taiwan, including Wang Dan (王丹), a student leader during the pro-democracy protests in Beijing who now lives in Taiwan. Since then, online boycotts of Want Want products and of the China Times newspaper, which Tsai acquired in 2008, have emerged. This also led a group of more than 60 academics and intellectuals in Taiwan today to call for a boycott.
Perhaps not by coincidence, in an open letter posted on Wang’s Facebook page, Tsai now claims that his comment were “distorted” and taken “out of context” by the Washington Post and Higgins. “Do you think I would ever make such a thoughtless ‘simple’ remark during an interview with international media?” Tsai opines.
The business tycoon — Taiwan’s third-wealthiest individual, according to Forbes magazine — asked that Higgins release “a full recording of the interview” and said he would apologize if anything he said in the recording was disrespectful to “mainland compatriots who suffered during the Tiananmen Incident” or hurt his Taiwanese compatriots.
According to CNA, a spokesman for the China Times urged Higgins to disclose the tape of his interview with Tsai and said the Post had yet to respond to four such requests.