Tiananmen Square crackdown: 21 most-wanted student leaders’ stories

JUNE 3, 2019
By Marcelo Duhalde

A week after armed forces cleared Tiananmen Square the Beijing Public Security Bureau distributed a circular of the pro-democracy movement’s 21 most wanted leaders. Photographs and names of the students were repeatedly broadcast on television and printed in newspapers throughout the country. Here’s what happened to all 21 student leaders

Click on a student and scroll for further details
1- Wang Dan 2- Wuer Kaixi 3- Liu Gang 4- Chai Ling 7- Liang Qingtun 8- Wang Zhengyun 9- Zheng Xuguang 10- Ma Shaofang 11- Yang Tao 5- Zhou Fengsuo 6- Zhai Weimin
12- Wang Zhixin 13- Feng Congde 14- Wang Chaohua 15- Wang Youcai 16- Zhang Zhiqing 17- Zhang Boli 18- Li Lu 19- Zhang Ming 20- Xiong Wei 21- Xiong Yan

Living in mainland China In jail Living abroad
1989 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2019 April 15 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 June 4 TIANANMEN SQUARE PROTESTS Operation Yellow Bird June 4, 1989 to June 30, 1997 History, Peking University Arrested on July 2, 1989, and sentenced to four years in prison. Released on parole in February, 1993 Detained again in May 1995 and sentenced to 11 years in prison Freed on medical parole in April 1998. Goes into exile in the US Teaches at universities in Taiwan from 2009 to 2017 Starts a think tank in the US in 2018 called Dialogue China and continues to advocate for human rights in China Wang Dan Wuer Kaixi Education, Beijing Normal University Escapes to Hong Kong via Operation Yellow Bird Settles in Taiwan after marrying a Taiwanese woman Is a political commentator and columnist in Taiwan Physics, Peking University Liu Gang Arrested in Hebei on June 16, 1989, and sentenced to six years. Incarcerated in Liaoning province Released in 1995 and exiled to the US in 1996 Graduates from Columbia University with a master’s degree in computer science. Begins working in finance on Wall Street in 2006 As of 2011, lives in New York Psychology, Beijing Normal University Chai Ling With the help of Operation Yellow Bird, Chai escapes to France through Hong Kong in April 1990 Settles in the US, gaining postgraduate degrees from Princeton and Harvard. Starts a software company in 2001 Converts to Christianity in 2009 As of 2016, lives in Boston and works in an education technology firm Physics, Tsinghua University Arrested in Xian on June 13, 1989 through information supplied by his elder sister and brother-in-law, and is imprisoned for one year Moves to the US in 1995 Graduates with an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1998. Co-founds charity Humanitarian China in 2007 in San Francisco to support to the politically oppressed in China Quits his investment firm job in San Francisco and moves to Newark in early 2019 to devote himself to advocacy through Humanitarian China Zhou Fengsuo A student at what is now Capital University of Economics and Business Detained in May 1990 and sentenced to four years in jail in 1992 for anti-counterrevolutionary incitement offences Released in September 1993 Detained multiple times for pro-democracy activities As of 2019, works for a private company in Luoyang, Henan province Zhai Weimin Liang Qingtun Psychology, Beijing Normal University Flees to the US. Tries to apply for a visa to return to China in 1994 but is denied Moves to Taiwan in 2009 As of 2014, is no longer in regular contact with other Chinese dissidents and lives in Australia Wang Zhengyun A student at what is now Minzu University of China Arrested in July 1989 in Yunnan. Completes his prison sentence in July 1991 In 2006, says he is growing bananas on the Yunnan-Vietnam border Works for a company in Shandong province as of 2019 Zheng Xuguang A student of what is now Beihang University Arrested in July 1989 and released from jail in July 1991 Continues activism for democracy and repeatedly detained in the 1990s Goes to the US in early 2019 Ma Shaofang Student at Beijing Film Academy Arrested in Guangzhou in June 1989 and serves three years in jail Released in June 1992 Continues to be a dissident, advocating for democracy and accountability for the Tiananmen crackdown. Ma, Zhai Weimin and other pro-democracy activists organise a public memorial for the victims of the crackdown in Hebei province in 2013 Lives in Jiangsu province has of 2019 Yang Tao History, Peking University Arrested in Xinjiang in December 1989 and released in 1991 In 1999, accused of subversion but eventually jailed for four years for tax evasion Lives and works in Jiangsu province as of 2019 Wang Zhixin China University of Political Science and Law Arrested in Xinjiang in December 1989 and released in 1991 Is no longer in touch with the dissident community. Works for a medical device company in Shanxi province as of 2019 Feng Congde Earth and space sciences, Peking University Escapes to France in April 1990 through Operation Yellow Bird Moves to the US and works for Human Rights in China in 2005 Remains active in campaigning for human rights in China and accountability over the crackdown. As of 2016, lives in San Francisco Wang Chaohua Postgraduate, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Flees China through Operation Yellow Bird in 1991 Edits a collection of essays called One China, Many Paths, published in 2003 Obtains her PhD from UCLA in 2008. As of 2019, works as a freelance writer and teaches Chinese at UCLA. She is also an academic committee member of Dialogue China Wang Youcai Physics, Peking University Arrested on August 19, 1989, and released in November 1991 Arrested for starting the China Democracy Party on November 30, 1998, and sentenced to 11 years in jail Released on March 4, 2004, and goes into exile As of 2014, lives in Chicago and works at the Jefferson Lab Zhang Zhiqing China University of Political Science and Law Arrested in January 1991. Settles in the US after his release No longer involved in activism Zhang Boli Peking University Goes into hiding for two years before fleeing to Hong Kong through Operation Yellow Bird in June 1991. Granted asylum by US Becomes a pastor in 2000 As of 2019, chief pastor of Harvest Chinese Christian Church in Virginia Li Lu Semiconductor physics, Nanjing University Leaves China through Operation Yellow Bird in 1989. First goes to Paris before settling in the US later that year In 1990, publishes a book called Moving the Mountain: My Life in China In 1996, gains three degrees (economics, business and law) from Columbia University and begins working in finance Manages his own firm Himalaya Capital and returns to China from time to time, including a 2010 trip with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Zhang Ming Automotive engineering, Tsinghua University Arrested in Shenzhen in September 1989 and jailed Released from jail in 1991 and works with another student leader, Ma Shaofang in Beijing and then Shanghai Arrested in Shanghai in September 2002 and charged with embezzlement. Released in 2006 after seven years in jail. Lives in Jilin province as of 2019, and helps patients with terminal illnesses Xiong Wei Electronic engineering, Tsinghua University Turns himself in to authorities in June 1989. Released a year later without charge Little is known of Xiong’s present circumstances except he is living in the US and is no longer an active dissident Xiong Yan Law, Tsinghua University Arrested on June 15, 1989, and released without charge in 1991. Flees to the US via Hong Kong in 1992 Joins the US Army in 1994 and now works as an army chaplain In April 2015, denied entry to Hong Kong in an attempt to see his dying mother in mainland China As of 2017, stationed in Hawaii with US Army 130th Engineer Brigade
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Operation Yellow Bird
After the crackdown, then-premier Li Peng called for those who supported or took part in the demonstrations to be imprisoned. Operation Yellow Bird was established in Hong Kong to help those at risk. The underground network involved more than 40 people and is believed to have helped about 150 dissidents escape from mainland China. The operation received financial support from businesspeople and celebrities, as well as the public

The map shows arrival points and safe houses in Hong Kong used by the dissidents

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