Key Tiananmen protester tries to return to China
Wu'er Kaixi, one of the principal student leaders of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, flew Wednesday from Taiwan to the Chinese territory of Macau, saying he wanted to surrender to Chinese authorities after two decades in exile.
BEIJING — Wu'er Kaixi, one of the principal student leaders of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, flew Wednesday from Taiwan to the Chinese territory of Macau, saying he wanted to surrender to Chinese authorities after two decades in exile.
Meanwhile, police ringed Beijing's Tiananmen Square today as the government blocked any attempts to mark the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy activists.
Wu'er rose to fame in 1989 as a pajama-clad hunger striker yelling at Li Peng, then China's premier, at a televised meeting during the protests. Named No. 2 on the government's list of 21 most-wanted student leaders after the crackdown, he escaped and had been living in exile in the self-ruled island of Taiwan. An attempt to return home in 2004 was rebuffed.
Immigration officers pulled Wu'er aside and demanded he fly back to Taiwan, something he vowed to resist.
Wu'er said in a statement issued through a friend that he wants to surrender to Chinese authorities so he can visit his parents, who haven't been allowed to leave China.
"When I turn myself in, I will use the platform of a Chinese courtroom to debate the Chinese government about this incident," he said. "My turning myself in should not be interpreted as my admission that my behavior 20 years ago is illegal and wrong. I want to reassert here the Chinese government bears complete and undeniable moral, political and legal responsibility for the tragedy that happened in China in 1989," his statement said.
"I hope, 20 years later, the Chinese government can set a new position on the historical problem of the 'June 4 massacre,' admit its guilt and apologize to the Chinese people," he said.
The student leader who topped the most-wanted list, Wang Dan, was jailed for seven years before being expelled to the United States in 1998.
"His action is kind of an expression of anger and protest," said Wang Dan of Wu'er's move. "Maybe this is his only way to return to China. For all of us, this is the only way."
The Chinese government has continued to enforce strict security throughout Beijing, the capital, aiming to head off any public commemoration of the protests in Tiananmen Square. Foreign journalists were barred from the vast square as uniformed and plainclothes police stood guard across the vast plaza that was the epicenter of the student-led movement that was crushed by the military on the night of June 3-4, 1989.
Security officials also blocked foreign TV-camera operators and photographers from covering the raising of China's national flag, which happens at dawn every day.
Dissidents were confined to their homes or forced to leave Beijing, part of sweeping efforts to prevent online debate or organized commemorations of the anniversary.
China has never allowed an independent investigation into the military's crushing of the protests, in which possibly thousands of students, activists and ordinary citizens were killed. Young Chinese know little about the events, having grown up in a generation that has largely eschewed politics in favor of nationalism and economic development.
In a recent interview, Wu'er told BBC News that while he was proud of the pro-democracy movement, he felt some regret about its outcome.
"If I had known the result would be so bloody, would I still have done the same?" he asked. "Perhaps not."
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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