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Tiananmen, 15 Years On

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

Photo courtesy of Open Magazine.
Yan 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. In 1976, for example, he took part in demonstrations that followed the death of Premier Zhou Enlai, and in 1978 he published an essay in one of the Democracy Wall samizdat magazines. In the early 1980s, Yan switched from philosophy to political science. In 1985, he was named the first head of the Institute of Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). One Western academic dubbed him “China’s first political scientist.”

Yan’s response to the events of spring 1989 was swift. He organized protests over the closing of the reformist World Economic Herald in Shanghai, and signed on to public letters criticizing the government’s handling of the student protests. After his attempts to convince China’s leaders to take a softer line failed, Yan took his place with the students. On the night of June 3, he was in the Square for the opening ceremony of the newly-founded “democracy university,” an institution created by student protestors and headed by student leader Zhang Boli. Yan was named honorary president. “It was already very late,” Yan recalled. “It was probably around 10 p.m. Shots had already been fired, but we couldn’t yet hear them in the Square… I went home to bed. I was awakened at one or two in the morning by the sound of gunfire. At the time, I lived behind CASS, not far from Jianguomen. I could see what was going on [in the streets below] very clearly. The sound of gunfire was very loud.” For Yan, the government’s decision to use force meant the die had been cast. “A few people came to my house that morning and said that many people had been killed in Tiananmen Square. I decided to leave Beijing.”

Yan made it to Hong Kong on June 22, 1989, then on to France, and some five years later to the U.S. From his home in Brooklyn, New York, he writes regularly for Chinese-language publications in the U.S., Japan, Europe, and Hong Kong, and continues to push for democratic reform in China.

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 develop-
ment 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