Tuesday, April 26, 2011

People of 1989: Wang Zhiyong

In the spring of 1989, Wang Zhiyong (王志勇), a senior at the University of Political Sciences and Law, was looking forward to his graduation just like many of his classmates. He grew up in a poor rural area. Graduating from a prestigious college in the capital was to be a remarkable milestone in his young life.

In the evening of April 19, he also went to the Xinhuamen, the site of China's government, like many of his classmates. There, they continued a mass sit-in protest from the previous night, following the death of Hu Yaobang. After the midnight, the peaceful petition turned confrontational. The student body was broken up by police forces. Wang Zhiyong and two of his fellow students left the area and went to Qianmen to catch the subway home. What followed was described in a Big Post written by one of his classmates the next day:
In the evening of April 19, Wang Zhiyong and two other students from our school came to Tiananmen Square to participate in the memorial activities for Comrade Hu Yaobang. Around 4am of April 20, they crossed Chang'an Avenue and went on the street south of the Great Hall of People. Just then, they faced two platoons of the People's Armed Police. The commander shouted, "Who are you? Beat them up!" dozens of policemen surrounded them. Several of them rushed on and beat Wang Zhiyong's head with their metal-knuckled belts. Wang Zhiyong's head was broken and had to have three stitches later. His head was badly swollen and he could not open his left eye. After the beating, Wang Zhiyong ran to the subway station and sat there in a daze. He was sent back to school by two kind-hearted passers-by.
I was able to get contact with Wang Zhiyong, who is now in the United States, recently. He confirmed the above description as truthful. The day after, he had also displayed his blooded shirts on campus and told his own story in the student broadcasting station.

The conflict between students and police in the early morning of April 20 at Xinhuamen had been exaggerated to become the "April 20 Bloody Tragedy" at the time. There were however very few reported injuries among students. Wang Zhiyong's experience, albeit some distance away from Xinhuamen, was undoubtedly one of the most serious. It could also be the only verifiable case. The above poster was widely circulated in the college campuses in Beijing and was a major factor in leading students to further their protesting actions.

Wang Zhiyong did not shy away from the movement himself either. He participated in and contributed to the movement as a member of student martial from his school. As they were leaving Tiananmen Square after their duty in the afternoon of June 3, they could hear the approaching gunshots.

After the massacre, Wang Zhiyong escaped from punishment largely due to the protective actions by his school teachers and authorities. He worked for two years and then became a graduate student in Peking University, from which he earned a Masters degree in law. Later, he became a Christian and devoted his life to God. In 1997, he left China for theological education in the US. Today, he is a pastor in Virginia.

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