Mao Portrait Protester Raises Fears For Jailed Fellows

A portrait of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong at the heart of Tiananmen Square is defaced with a trail of blue, red and yellow paint on May 23, 1989. Photo: AFP/Files

HONG KONG—A 1989 protester who helped splatter Mao Zedong’s portrait with paint during the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement has voiced concern over the fate of his two fellow activists.

Yu Zhijian, one of three men jailed for defacing the icon of the Chinese Communist Party, said that former editor Yu Dongyue was suffering mental health problems in a Chinese jail, while Lu Decheng was still jailed in Thailand, desperately fighting deportation back to China.

"We are very worried about Lu Decheng now," Yu told RFA Cantonese service reporter Lillian Cheung.

We are very worried about Lu Decheng now...Our estimate is that, if he’s sent back and put on trial, he will be sentenced to 10 or more years.

"The night he was arrested…it was December 15 of last year…his father was so worried when he heard the news. He couldn’t sleep or eat. Up to this day, he still doesn’t know anything about Lu’s situation."

Yu, a former primary school teacher from the southern province of Hunan, said Lu's family were convinced their son would carry out his threat of suicide, if deported by the Thai authorities for illegal immigration.

"If he’s sent back, he probably won’t just be faced with a two- or three-year jail sentence," the Changsha-based Yu told RFA. "Our estimate is that, if he’s sent back and put on trial, he will be sentenced to 10 or more years."

Yu, who was interrogated twice by the Changsha police department at the time of Lu's arrest in Bangkok and warned against causing trouble, posted a poem on the Internet drawing attention to Yu Dongyue's plight on the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown earlier this month.

Listen to the original report in Cantonese

Yu said there had been little change in the state of Yu Dongyue, jailed for counter-revolutionary sabotage in 1989.

"At the end of 1992 or the beginning of 1993, the first time his family went to visit him, he already couldn’t recognize anybody. He didn’t recognize neither his father, mother, younger brother, nor younger sister," Yu told RFA.

"He had a hollow look and didn’t recognize anyone. He just had a dumb look on his face. His whole body was bruised and swelling. His family…his younger sister and her husband went to visit him last year and he was in the same condition and his mental illness is still very serious," Yu said.

"His family mainly went to see him and try to find out when he can be released."

Lu was arrested in Bangkok by Thai police on Dec. 12, 2004, and has since applied for political asylum and refugee status with the United Nations. His application is believed to be still pending.

The three men came from Hunan Province, where Lu Decheng and Yu Zhijian were playmates as children, while Yu Zhijian and Yu Dongyue were classmates at school, Lu said.

Before they defaced the Mao portrait on May 23, 1989, all three had been active in the pro-democracy movement in the provincial capital Changsha, traveling to Beijing in mid-May that year to join thousands of demonstrators on Tiananmen Square.

Yu Dongyue, Lu, and Yu Zhijian were handed over to national security police after prolonged negotiations with the student command on the Square, a decision Lu and Yu Zhijian regard as having been made with the broader interests of the student movement in mind.

Lu and Yu Zhijian have written repeatedly to central government officials in Beijing calling for the release of Yu Dongyue on medical grounds and for their rehabilitation, but with no result.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Lillian Cheung. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Original reporting in Cantonese


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