05/26/2009, 00.00
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Tiananmen: Do not forget the young man who defied the tanks

by Lu Decheng
Lu Decheng, a political refugee in Canada, was a worker who, during the Tiananmen protests, stained Mao’s portrait. For this he was sentenced to life in prison, but was freed after nine years. He describes the heroism of ordinary people who supported the students and warns the international community of the danger that a non-democratic China represents.
Calgary (AsiaNews) – Lu Decheng, 46, has spent these past three years in Calgary (Canada) as a political refugee. After nine years in a Chinese prison camp he was able to escape to Thailand. The 1989 protests by students and workers have marked his life. But on the night of the massacre Lu was already behind bars. He had been arrested a few days earlier, on 23 May, when he and two friends three eggs and paint against the large portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs over the entrance to the Imperial Palace. That was the first time that the memory of the dictator, who had decreed the death of millions of Chinese, was insulted. Lu Decheng, truck driver, had arrived in Beijing to support the students’ demands. His act was condemned by the regime as an “incitement to revolt.” Now Lu is a refugee in Canada, but his wife and son are still hostages of the Chinese government which will not let them go.

The second man who stained the Mao portrait was Yu Zhijian, 46. Released in 2001 he lost his teaching job and does odd jobs to survive. The third man was Yu Dongyue, a brilliant journalist from Hunan who lost his mind. In prison he was beaten and tortured. An iron bar broke his skull and now he is mentally disabled. His parents agreed to say nothing about what happened to him in prison and not to press charges so long as they could take him home.

The most painful memory of the past 20 years is that of the young worker who defied the tanks in Beijing. His picture was seen around the world and everyone knows him but almost no one knows what happened to him. His name was Wang Weiming but we don’t know whether he is alive or dead. I hope someone will do something about it and that one day we will know the truth, even though it will be difficult because the picture does not show his face. In this sense my friends and I who stained Mao’s portrait were lucky; our faces were shown by media around the world so that after our arrest the international community put pressure for our release and we came out of the camps alive.

Another thing that strikes me is how easy people forget all these dead, the students but also the people of Beijing, the ordinary folks, workers, farmers, who helped the students. They are the real heroes. We must call the massacre of 4 June for what it is, a crime against humanity, and not an “internal matter,” as the party calls it.

The democratic movement of 1989 perhaps did not have clear ideas, but it was instrumental in giving rise to democratic groups that still exist today in China. Personally I think the whole world should be grateful to the young people of Tiananmen because the massacre of 4 June ushered in the great changes that swept across Eastern Europe and led to the fall of the Berlin Wall; it was the spark that ignited change.

Looking at China 20 years later, you are struck by the changes, but these are just apparent. Of course the economy shows all the power the Communist Party, its capacity to organise the country, but it still resists freedom and democracy like it did 20 years ago.

If you look at the economy you can see how weak it is. The giant rose because of cheap labour and opens up its own markets to extent that makes it more powerful. In economic matters China does not apply the same rules as everybody else; its game is more like to warfare. It seduces Western countries, pits them one against the other, and then beats them: first Japan, then the United States, and so on.

China’s method is like the wars of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-221 BC) or the period of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Everyone thinks that China has changed because it transformed its economy, but its goals remain the same, which is to maintain the power of the party and extend its dominion. If the hegemony of the party does not end in China, nothing will really change.

I hope that international community will not fail to keep an eye on China. Only if the China question is solved will there be peace in the world. Let me remind you that the Chinese Communist Party backs North Korea’s dictatorship as well as Vietnam, Venezuela, Sudan, Pakistan and thus Islamic fundamentalism as well.

We must all work together for democracy in China. I set up a web site titled the ‘Last Berlin Wall’. I hope that this last wall, Chinese Communism, will fall soon, only then will peace be possible in the world.

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