Monday, April 09, 2012

Dissident who inspired Tiananmen Square protests dies

Fang Lizhi [方励之], a Chinese dissident whose speeches helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, has died aged 76. But while his death was reported in western media, there has been little or no mention of his passing away in the Chinese mainland where he was born.

Fang was one of China's leading astrophysicists but he fell from grace and was expelled from the Communist Party in 1987, accused of stirring up unrest. Although he took no active part in the Tiananmen Square protests he was seen as an inspiration to the thousands of students who did take part.

But as Chinese troops cracked down on the protest and killed hundreds, if not thousands of activists [BBC], Fang and his wife took refuge in the US embassy where he remained for a year before leaving China.


Despite repeated requests by the Chinese authorities, the Americans refused to hand them over, and in 1990, the couple were allowed to leave for the US.

After spending some time at Cambridge University in Britain and Princeton University in New Jersey, Fang later moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he worked as Professor of Physics at the University of Arizona.

Human rights

He remained critical of the Chinese regime and in campus speeches Fang spoke on topics such as human rights and democracy as matters of social responsibility. He also served as a board member and co-chair of Human Rights in China [HRiC].

It is perhaps no surprise that the celebrated scholar and advocate of human rights failed to gain a mention in China itself, though there was a brief mention in the Global Times English language edition. His passing was mentioned in Hong Kong papers where different rules apply. Some also commented on the censorship and blocking of the news in mainland China.

The Sing Tao Daily  [Chinese] made reference to some of the messages posted on China’s micro-blogs, some of which expressed anger at the news media failing to report Fang’s death. Micro-blogger Fu Kuo-Chung [傅國湧] [blog / weibo] wrote a message celebrating the academic saying “his words had excited an era”. However, like many other posts referring to Fang Lizhi, it was removed by censors only hours later.


The censorship is in direct contradiction to assertions made by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei who only recently insisted China's Internet was open to all and that “users enjoy total freedom online.

A search on Baidu, China's home-grown search engine, for  方励之 [Fang Lizhi] results in few returns. A message is displayed at the top of the page which reads "Accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies, some search results were not displayed" [根据相关法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示]. Most articles are several years old and refer to Fang's expulsion from the Communist Party. There are a few news articles though many were only published today [9th April], 3 days after he died [].

Fang Lizhi died in his home in Tucson on April 6, 2012 and along with him his hopes for freedom and democracy in China. His words however still resonate:  "Democracy is not a favour bestowed from above; it should be won through people's own efforts." [BBC / Telegraph / Guardian / FT / Reuters / NYT]

See also: Fang Lizhi - Bringing Down the Great Wall: Writings on Science, Culture, and Democracy in China [Amazon]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

1 comment:

MacySea said...

Death of Chinese dissident Mr. Li Wangyang, he used different ways love him country. Mr. Li was jailed for more than 22 years after the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests. He is a patriot but him country not love him. And then his friends concern why him dead, they monitor and intercept by china government.

Hong Kong people attach to death of Chinese dissident Mr. Li Wangyang. DAB, HKFTU political groups can be representative Hong Kong people a say in Beijing, but they have the courage.

I feel that one country two system is our Hong Kong people lifestyle. This is very dirty policy and dirty country.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) is the largest pro-Beijing political party in Hong Kong.