Friday, August 11, 2017

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.

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