Zhou, who has been a US resident for years, secretly travelled to the mainland in September of last year but was detained as soon as he arrived from Hong Kong.
Police yesterday charged him with fraud in his home town of Suining in Sichuan province. His family received the written arrest notice on Wednesday morning, a few weeks short of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The family also said that the police, who initially accused him of spying and other political crimes, now claim that he is in involved financial fraud.
In 1989 Zhou was a law student who helped organise the mass movement demanding democratic reform that erupted on Chinese streets in 1989.
On that fateful night of 4 June he was in Tiananmen Square when army troops moved in to crush the protest, shooting at free will. Hundreds, perhaps thousands lost their lives (May 1989 street protest pictured).
Zhou was arrested and held for years in prison. Released in 1993 he fled to the United States. However, he tried to re-enter China in 1998 but was caught and sentenced to three years of administrative detention in a re-education-through-labour camp. After he purged the sentence he again left for the United States in 2002.
Today the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights group, said that at least 30 people are still in prison as a result of the 4 June 1989 crackdown, accused of attacking soldiers who were shooting at the crowd. Many were young workers, who were treated harshly by the government, even more than students and intellectuals.
In its statement, Dui Hua gave the actual names of 16 people either confirmed or believed to be still in jail.
In the meantime in China after 20 years, talking about what in Tiananmen Square is still forbidden.