Beijing (AsiaNews) - Xu Liangying, one of the champions of democracy in China, has died at 92 years of age in a Beijing hospital after spending most of his life fighting for political freedom of his country. Xu, one of the first members of the Communist Party, was sentenced by Mao Zedong to 20 years of hard labor in the Chinese countryside for his opposition to what he considered the "betrayal" of the Marxist values and 11 years of house arrest for inspiring the Tiananmen Square protest. His wife, the historian Wang Laidi, died a few weeks before him.
His death was announced on January 28 by his son Xu Chenggang, a professor of economics at the University of Hong Kong. The " dissident physicist " died from complications resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage. He and his wife worked for about 20 years on a book - almost finished - that seeks to introduce democratic ideas and the origin of democracy to the Chinese public. For his son, "his legacy is his battle for the defense of human rights in China, not an easy task".
Born in Linhai (Zhejiang Province) in 1920, Xu Liangying graduated in physics at provincial university in 1942, his admiration for Albert Einstein was born already at secondary school level. As he recalled, he was impressed by the phrase of the famous Swiss physician which states: "The state is made for man, not man for the state. I regard the chief duty of the state to protect the individual and give him the opportunity to develop into a creative personality".
Xu joined the Communist Party (then underground) at the age of 22 because "I was a true believer in Marxism, not just because I wanted democracy and freedom." With the advent of the regime of Mao Zedong, his ideals collapsed along with the repression of academic freedom and political dissent. In 1957, the government labeled him a "bourgeois rightist" and sentenced him to live and work in the countryside where he remained for 20 years, until 1978.
In February 1989 he wrote an open letter - signed by 42 leading Chinese scientists - in which he asked the leaders of the Party to implement democracy, protect civil rights and release political prisoners. The letter went on to inspire pro-democracy and anti-corruption protests of students and workers, who gathered in Tiananmen Square. After the massacre and repression of June 4, the government condemned Xu, placing him under house arrest until the early years of the millennium.
Despite this constant repression he continued to ask through his writings for public justice and freedom for dissidents. Among his proteges is Wang Dan, one of the best known opponents of the communist regime currently in jail. In 1995 he won the Heinz Pagels Human Rights Award and the 2008 Sakharov Prize.