Sunday, May 8, 2011
People of 1989: Wang Youcai
In the fall of 1987, the 21-year-old Wang Youcai (王有才) arrived at the Department of Physics, Peking University, as a graduate student. He appeared to have come at the right place at the right time. The student body of that department was a hot bed of spontaneous activities. Wang Youcai was no stranger to that either, he had become active in the 1986 student movement while he was at his undergraduate Zhejiang University. Only months after he had settled in Peking University, he was already involved in the 1988 student unrest after a death of another graduate student. He became a member of the "action committee," which was made up by many future student leaders.
Following the death of Hu Yaobang in 1989, Wang Youcai joined the emerging commemoration and protest from the beginning. In the earlier days, he served in the Preparatory Committee in Peking University, in charge of its external relations. After the hunger strike was launched, he stayed behind in school and organized the logistical supports for students in Tiananmen Square. When the then marginalized Beijing Students Autonomous Federation attempted to make a comeback after the end of hunger strike, he was elected to be its secretary general. He then also participated in the Headquarters for Defending Tiananmen Square.
After the massacre, as most of the student leaders had disappeared from public scene, Wang Youcai stayed at Peking University and helped to organize a series of postmortem efforts. Among them was to dispatch student reporters to other schools and hospitals to collect data of casualties.
All his work landed him into the infamous "21 Most Wanted" list. He was captured in August, 1989 and sentenced to 4 years in 1991. However, he was released in November that year.
The freed Wang Youcai did not cease his pro-democracy activities. Throughout the 1990s, he was frequently detained by the police for his numerous initiatives. In 1998, he launched an attempt to legally register an opposition party, the Chinese Democratic Party, in China. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "subversion of state power." Under international pressure, he was released from prison "for medical reasons" in 2004 and sent directly into exile in the US in 2004.
In America, Wang Youcai chose a route not taken by most of his peers. Not only does he keep a high-profile participation in the oversea pro-democracy movement--he founded a version of the Chinese Democratic Party in the US with Wang Juntao and others, he also went back to school in his old major physics at the University of Illinois.
This spring, the already 45-year-old Wang Youcai finally earned his Ph.D. degree. He is now working in a finance company on Wall Street.