01/20/2010, 00.00
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Arrested in Hong Kong, Tiananmen protest leader sentenced to nine years in a Chinese prison

He was found guilty on charges of attempted fraud for using a fake passport. Instead of expelling him to the place he came from, Hong Kong authorities handed him over to Chinese police.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Former Tiananmen movement leader Zhou Yongjun was sentenced to nine years in prison on the charge of attempted fraud and fined 80,000 yuan. He was arrested in Hong Kong in September 2008 and handed over to mainland authorities, in violation of Hong Kong law.

In 1989, he took part in the student movement. He was one the students who captured world attention in 1989 by kneeling on the steps of the Great Hall of the People beside Tiananmen Square in an unheeded plea for China's Communist leaders to acknowledge student calls for political reforms and an end to corruption.

On the night of 3-4 June 1989, he was in Tiananmen when the army surrounded the square and fired indiscriminately, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands.

After spending a number of years in prison, he was released in 1993 and fled to the United States.

In 1998, he tried to return to China but was arrested and sentenced to three years in a ‘re-education-through-labour’ camp, an administrative penalty to forced labour. Once he completed his sentence in 2002, he returned to the United States.

He tried to secretly re-enter China in September 2008 to see his sick parents, but was arrested on arrival in Hong Kong because he had a fake passport. Like all other exiles, he had no passport because the authorities had taken his away to prevent him from travelling.

Instead of sending him back to his place of embarkation, Zhou was handed over to the People’s Republic of China.

After months in jail, he was charged with fraud last May and on 15 January sentenced to nine years behind bars.

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Zhou Yongjun, who was in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989, is arrested