Tuesday, June 10, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Scapegoating Fang LIzhi

On June 10, 1989, New York Tims reported that Deng Xiaoping finally appeared in public after three weeks absence, squashing rumors that he had been dead. Without remorse, Deng Xiaoping spoke at length to justify the bloody crackdown.

The news of the day was that the official television news had named Fang Lizhi as the villain of the movement:
The target of the broadcast, Fang Lizhi, a leading astrophysicist who is China's best-known dissident, had perhaps been overlooked because he does not own a gun and for weeks has carefully avoided the student encampment on Tiananmen Square, where troops killed hundreds, or possibly thousands, of civilians early this week.
Nevertheless, the television news accused Mr. Fang, who is now in the United States Embassy for his own protection, of being a traitor who incited the ''rebellion'' and provoked the violence.
The sharp attack underscored not only the passions that Mr. Fang, who is 53 years old, arouses on both sides of the Pacific, but also the difficulties that the United States and China will have in resolving the latest irritant to their relations.
Fang Lizhi (pronounced fahng lee-JER), his wife, Li Shuxian, and their son, Fang Ke, took refuge in the embassy because they feared arrest after the shooting of pro-democracy demonstrators in the center of the city on Sunday and Monday.
In fact, Fang Lizhi and his wife played very little role throughout the entire movement, which he might have helped inspiring earlier in the year. Fang Lizhi chose to stay out partly because he had disagreed with some of the students' aggressive tactics and partly because he did not want to bring trouble to the students with his reputation as a dissident. The students, on the other hand, largely stayed away from him for the same reason. They wanted their movement to stay "pure".

The scapegoating of Fang Lizhi did not last long, however. With Fang Lizhi out of reach in the American embassy and the capture of Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao later that year, Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao became accused for being the "black hands of Beijing".

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