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Tiananmen protest leader wants to return to China


Taipei : Chinese pro-democracy student leader Wang Dan has asked China to allow all political exiles, including himself, to return to China.

“China should stop creating stateless people. China should allow them to go home, at least to die there. Fallen leaves must return to their roots, as the Chinese saying goes,” he said Wednesday in an interview with DPA.

“Cancelling passports, refusing to extend passports, refusing to issue new passports and barring citizens from returning home will create stateless people, and that is just what the United Nations is concerned about,” he said.

“China has ratified two UN treaties on human rights, so China should respect international human rights codes,” he added.

Wang, who is in Taiwan to gather material for his PhD dissertation at Harvard, reiterated his demand to be allowed to return to Beijing.

He has been appealing for the right to return to China since last year, but China has ignored his request.

“My family members made the request to related departments three or four months ago. There has been no response, so it has virtually been rejected,” he said.

Wang, 38, a former history student at the Beijing University, organised the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest for democracy.

After China crushed the protest on June 4, 1989, killing hundreds of hunger-striking students, he was arrested and put in jail.

China released Wang on medical parole in 1998 and allowed him to go to the US. In the same year, China allowed Wang’s parents to go to the US to visit him.

Since then, Wang has been leading the overseas pro-democracy movement while studying history at Harvard University. In recent years, he has visited Taiwan many times to attend seminars, give speeches or to launch his book.

Living in Los Angeles, Wang supports himself by working as a freelance writer for Chinese-language publications in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the US.

Still outspoken in criticising China’s human rights record, Wang now longs to go home to become a teacher.

Last year he tried, but failed, to go to teach in Hong Hong, the British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, to pave the way for his return to China.

He said China could benefit from allowing him back before the 2008 Beijing Olympics because it could show the world that Beijing was loosening control on dissidents and has begun to respect human rights.

Beijing was not interested in that idea. So Wang is now demanding to directly return to Beijing, where his parents live.

But the return home is technically impossible because Wang’s Chinese passport expired in 2003 and China has refused to renew it or to issue him a new passport.

“I have visited the Chinese consulate general in Los Angeles, but did not succeed,” he told DPA.

“There must be no pre-conditions for my return,” Wang said when asked if he would agree to return on condition that he refrains from pro-democracy activities.

The 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing, which lasted for months and gave Chinese the brief hope that the government was going to introduce reform and embrace democracy, ended in bloodshed on June 4, 1989.

Tanks crushed protesting students sleeping in tents at Tiananmen Square.

Helped by sympathisers in Hong Kong, hundreds of pro-democracy leaders fled to Hong Kong to seek asylum in the west, mainly in the US and France.

China has now re-emerged as the world’s fastest-growing economy and foreign leaders and politicians, who once condemned China’s suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy protests, are flocking to China to improve ties or seek business deals.

Some of the exiled 1989 pro-democracy movement leaders have also changed.

Chai Ling, the eloquent student leader who used to stand beside Wan Dang giving speeches on Tiananmen Square, is now a successful businesswoman in the IT industry in the US, press reports said.

Another student leader in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, Wuer Kaixi, married a Taiwan student while studying at Harvard and has been living in Taiwan for several years.

He runs a software company in Taipei and reportedly returned to China once in recent years for a secret reunion with family members in Macau, a special administrative zone of China.

Some exiled Chinese pro-democracy activists who sneaked back into China were either put in jail or deported to the country where they boarded the flight.

Fully aware of this, Wang Dan plans to keep trying until China’s political exiles can return because going home is their basic human right, he feels.