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Tiananmen, 15 Years On

Where Are Some of the “Most Wanted” Participants Today?

Wang Youcai
“When I arrived in Beijing in 1987, my main interest was still physics. I thought that academia would be my future. The tragedy of 1989 made me decide to work for democracy in China.”
—May 2004

“The development of a democratic system is crucially important. Democracy is the only way to avoid a second Tiananmen.”
—May 2004

When the events that culminated on June 4, 1989 began, Wang Youcai, a twenty-four year-old graduate student in physics at Beijing University, was already committed to political reform. His interest had been aroused when still an undergraduate as he listened to physicist Fang Lizhi speak out about the need for democracy.

Wang held a number of different positions in the student movement during the weeks of protests leading up to June 4, including that of general secretary of the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation. Although he wasn’t in Tiananmen Square when the end came, he immediately began to document what was happening, so as to rebut with firsthand information what he believed would be an inevitable government cover up.

Knowing he would be hunted, Wang fled Beijing, but as he said about himself, “I was just an inexperienced student, so I went home.” Security forces detained him on August 19, 1989 and took him back to Beijing, where he was sentenced to a four-year term for “inciting subversion against the people’s government and the [attempt at] overthrowing the socialist system during the 1989 turmoil and rebellion.” Wang was released early for allegedly “showing repentance.” He attributes the release to international pressure during the visit of then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to Beijing.

The continuance of pro-democracy work brought Wang endless government harassment. He was repeatedly monitored, called in for questioning, and threatened by members of the Public Security Bureau. The government finally clamped down in 1997 when he and some friends formed the China Democracy Party, the first genuine opposition political party since the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Wang was detained in August 1998, released, then rearrested in November. In December 1998, he was sentenced to an eleven-year term on charges of subversion. Released in May 2004 and exiled to the U.S. on medical parole, Wang is currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center.

More Profiles:

Wang DanWang Dan
“ The future for democracy in China is dependent not just on political institutions but on the growth of a vibrant civil society.”

—May 25, 2004
Fenge CongdeFeng Congde
“Tiananmen was the beginning of the end of the communist camp. It was a wake-up call to Chinese inside and outside China.”

—May 2004
Photo withheldZhang Boli
“1989 stands out as a beautiful moment. We stood up. It wasn’t easy. Overturning the government’s official verdict isn’t important; what’s important is what we did. History will judge us properly.”
—June 2, 2004
Photo withheld/not availableLiu Gang
“We didn’t fail—failure is the mother of success. There’ll be more chances—and we have more experience.”

—May 2004
Zheng YiZheng Yi
Zheng worked with other intellectuals to craft statements of support for the students including the famous “Declaration of May 16.”
Photo withheld/not availableWang Chaohua
“I jumped into the center of the movement. I thought I could make a decision for myself....But this...decision had repercussions for others, including ones I love dearly.”
—May 26, 2004
Photo withheld/not availableLi Lu
“Once in [Tiananmen] Square you did anything and everything that needed doing.”
Photo withheld/not availableZheng Xuguang
“Within the movement we consistently adhered to the principles of peace, reason and nonviolence.”
—1993 “Peace Charter”
Zhang MingZhang Ming
Accused of inciting subversion and attempting to overthrow the socialist system, Zhang was sentenced in January 1991 to a three-year term.
Xiong YanXiong Yan
“We believe, no matter whether the government does or does not, that history will recognize this movement as a patriotic and democratic movement….”

—May 1989
Zhang MingWang Juntao
“Tiananmen changed Chinese history. It was a benchmark in Chinese political development, furthering the liberal trend of the 1980s and destroying the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party.”
—May 2004
Ma ShaofangMa Shaofang
Ma Shaofang, the former Beijing Film Academy student who was No. 10 on the most wanted student list, has remained politically active in China.
Yang YoucaiWang Youcai
“The development of a democratic system is crucially important. Democracy is the only way to avoid a second Tiananmen.”
—May 2004
Yang TaoYang Tao
Authorities charged Yang Tao had been an instigator of a “counterrevolutionary rebellion,” had “advocated bourgeois liberalism,” and “wantonly attacked Marxism.”
Han DongfangHan Dongfang
“1989 was the very first time the Chinese people themselves directly faced the regime. Before that time, there was only hope.
—May 2004
Zho FengsuoZhou Fengsuo
“It was the one time I experienced the beautiful character of the Chinese people longing for a democratic China where we could freely speak our minds.”
—May 2004
Photo withheld/not availableZhang Zhiqing
Zhang Zhiqing, No. 16 on “Wanted List 1,” disappeared from view shortly after June 4, 1989. None of the other students on the most wanted list has heard from him since.
Yan JiaqiYan Jiaqi
By the time the 1989 protests came to a head, Yan Jiaqi had years of experience in reform politics, working both inside and outside the system.
Lu JinghuaLu Jinghua
“Tiananmen 100 percent changed my life. Even since ’89, I’ve tried to make people understand what life without human rights is really all about.”
—May 24, 2004
Photo withheldFang Lizhi
“June 4, 1989 was one of the most important events of the last century.”
—May 2004


Nipped in the Bud: The Suppression of the China Democracy Party

Slamming the Door on Dissent: Wang Dan’s Trial and the New “State Security” Era

Leaking State Secrets: The Case of Gao Yu

China: Enforced Exile of Dissidents" Government "Re-entry Blacklist" Revealed

Further Reading

Chinese Scholars Detained
Human Rights Watch Campaign Document

Tiananmen Mother’s Campaign
Off-Site Link

Dr. Jiang Yanyong’s Letter and Petition
Off-Site Link