Friday, August 11, 2017

This Day in 1989: June 28, 1989, Thatcher Meets with Chinese Students in UK

In the morning of June 28, 1989, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met with five Chinese student representatives in her office at No. 10 Downing Street. At that time, there were about 3,500 Chinese students and scholars in UK and some 205 of them were facing expiration of their visa and would have to return to China soon.

The Chinese student representatives expressed gratitude to UK government for her strong condemnation of the Tiananmen Massacre. They hoped the UK government would also suspend all high-level visits between the two countries and also provide protection to the Chinese nationals in UK.

Thatcher promised that her government would "look sympathetically at any applications to stay in the United Kingdoms from those who did not wish to return to China for the present," and provide assistance in the areas of employment permission and health insurance to those with financial difficulties. However, she discouraged Chinese students from seeking long-term political asylum and said that "they should see their future in terms of returning to China to help build a better society there."

The UK government recently released a set of Home Office documents about Hong Kong and British citzenship and it included those for the preparation as well as summary of this meeting.

Days of 1989

Pictures of 1989: May 24, 1989, Hong Kong Dignitaries Sign Petition Support Beijing Movement

Pictures of 1989

Pictures of 1989: On the Night of May 27, 1989, Camping Tents from Hong Kong Arrive at Tiananmen

Pictures of 1989

Pictures of 1989: On May 29, 1989, Hong Kong Student Delegation Meet Beijing Student Leaders

May 29, 1989, Hong Kong student delegation meet with Beijing student leaders. Lin Yaoqiang at left, Wuer Kaixi in the corner.

May 29, 1989, Hong Kong student delegation meet with Beijing student leaders. Wang Dan is in black shirt.

May 29, 1989, Hong Kong student delegation meet with Beijing student leaders.

May 29, 1989, Hong Kong student delegation meet with Beijing student leaders.

May 29, 1989, Hong Kong student delegation visit Beijing student dorm.

Pictures of 1989

People of 1989: Yu Zhijian (余志坚)

Born in 1963, Yu Zhijian had graduated from a teaching college in Hunan for five years by 1989. He was initially given jobs teaching at local elementary and middle schools. But he soon grew tired of it and resigned in 1988. In his own words, he spent most of this time with his best friends Lu Decheng and Yu Dongyue, enjoying a free lifestyle.

With the breakout of the 1989 student movement, the three started to display banners and make speeches in a couple of cities in Hunan province. By mid May, they decided to go to Beijing and arrived there on May 18.

On May 23, with the movement stalled after two days of martial law, they decided to do something dramatic. In that afternoon, the three came under the Tiananmen and threw egg shells filled with paint onto the giant portrait of Mao Zedong, defacing it.

It happened at the time when most student leaders were off the square at a strategic meeting. The remaining student picket team arrested the three. After a brief discussion, Zhou Yongjun and Guo Haifeng decided to hand them to the government, fearing for lending the government excuse to suppress the movement.

After the massare, Yu Zhijian received a life sentence (Yu Dongyue got 20 years and Lu Decheng 16). After eleven and half years of prison, Yu Zhijian was released early for medical reason. He managed to escape from China into Tailand in 2009 and arrived in US. With a political refugee status, he lived with his family in Indiana. They also have been taking care of Yu Dongyue, who had become mentally incapacitated by the experience.

Yu Zhijaing (right) with his wife and son.

Yu Zhijian died on March 30, 2017, of diebetes. He was 54.

People of 1989: Xu Jiatun (许家屯)

Xu Jiatun was already 73 in 1989. He had been the head of the Xinhua Press Agency in Hong Kong, the de facto ambassador from mainland, for six years. He was an old and high-ranked Communist and had served as the Party head of the Jiangsu province. During his tenure in Hong Kong, he maintained a relatively open and liberal stance, establishing close personal relations with many of the local rich capitalists.

Throughout the 1989 movement, Xu Jiatun had a direct communication channel with Zhao Ziyang, feeding the latter with outside information collected from Hong Kong. According to Xu Jiatun's memoir, Zhao Ziyang called him right after his trip to North Korea, summoning him to Beijing to discuss the situation. Later, Zhao Ziyang delegated Xu Jiatun, through Yang Shangkun, to mediate and communicate with Deng Xiaoping. After Zhao Ziyang's ouster, Xu Jiatun passed a sympathetic message to Zhao Ziyang.

In the latter stage of the movement, with a tacit permission of Xu Jiatun, the left-leaning press in Hong Kong had adopted a stand supporting the movement. Some, including staff of his agency, had even participated in local demonstrations. After the massacre, Xu Jiatun signed off for Wenhui, a local newspaper under his control, to publish a protesting editorial. He was removed from his post shortly after and retired.

In late April, 1990, Xu Jiatun left China abruptly, fearing for further repercussions. He became the highest ranked official in exile. He lived in Los Angeles and published memoirs. Although he frequently expressed the desire to return to China in his later years, he never obtained a permission to do so.

Xu Jiatun died on June 29, 2016, at his home in Los Angles. He was 100.

People of 1989

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This Day in 1989: June 25, 1990, Fang Lizhi and Li Shuxian Leave US Embassy for Exile

On June 25, 1990, after more than a year of hiding in the US Embassy, Fang Lizhi and Li Shuxian finally obtained permission from the Chinese government to leave the country. The boarded a plane provided by the US government and flew to Britain to begin their exile life.

Later, Fang Lizhi wrote about their experiences of taking refuge, daily life, and the negotiation that led to their exile.