Chinese dissidents hail late democracy activist Fang Lizhi
By Bill Smith Apr 8, 2012, 10:48 GMT
Beijing - Chinese dissidents praised democracy activist and astrophysicist Fang Lizhi on Sunday following his death in exile in the United States.
Beijing-based dissident Ding Zilin, who leads the Tiananmen Mothers group, said Fang's activism had 'greatly advanced the course of China's democracy movement.'
'Under China's totalitarian system, Mr Fang's statements and views have circulated widely among intellectuals, enlightening three generations of young, middle-aged and old people,' Ding wrote in a statement distributed by US-based Chinese dissident websites.
State media did not report Fang's death over the weekend but Chinese dissidents based in China and overseas circulated the news and links to Fang's articles.
'Fang Lizhi, voice of truth, conscience of humanity, inspired the 1989 pro-democracy protests in China,' Li Xiaorong, a US-based scholar and rights activist, said on her Twitter account.
Li said Fang had been a 'giant in the history of China's freedom fight, a strong supporter of human rights, (and a) devoted astrophysicist.'
'Condolences to this scholar who rewrote my generation's memories of youth,' Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing-based rights lawyer, said on his Twitter account.
Fang, 76, died on Friday in Tuscon, Arizona, where he was a university professor.
Considered a brilliant astrophysicist and once a member of China's ruling Communist Party, he became one of the country's highest-profile critics of the regime when he issued an open letter in early 1989 calling on party leader Deng Xiaoping to free political prisoners.
Fang's public stand helped inspire the student-led democracy movement that sprang up in early 1989 and lasted until the party sent troops with tanks and live ammunition to disperse protesters overnight on June 3-4, 1989.
Fang and his wife took refuge for more than a year inside the US embassy in Beijing before being allowed to leave China for asylum in the United States.
'Almost without exception, everything that has been done in socialist countries under systems of state socialism has led to failure,' Fang wrote in November 1989 while staying in the embassy.
In a statement intended to help smooth his release into exile, forwarded to the Chinese government via US officials, he said 40 years of Communist Party rule in China to 1989 had been 'a disappointment.'
'There can be no true modernization without democracy and human rights,' Fang said, according to a translation published last year by the New York Review of Books.
Exiled dissident Wang Dan, a leader of the 1989 protests, on Saturday hailed Fang as 'a treasure to China.'
'Mr Fang Lizhi will never be forgotten!' said Ge Xun, another US-based Chinese dissident.
The Tiananmen Mothers is an informal group of relatives and supporters of victims of the 1989 crackdown. It takes its name from Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where the 1989 protests began.
It is led by retired university professor Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son was killed by a soldier's bullet near Tiananmen Square.
Ding's group has confirmed the deaths of 203 people in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown but it said it believes the total number of casualties is much higher.
The Communist Party still refuses to explain the military action or make public the death toll and the names of the dead.
Read more about US