Former 1989 student leader kicked out of Beijing, told to live in rural birthplace

State security police warn Ji Feng’s friends not to meet with him.
By Gao Feng for RFA Mandarin
2023.06.26
Former 1989 student leader kicked out of Beijing, told to live in rural birthplace "They want to force me to go and live in a rural area, where my hometown is, in Tongzi county under the administration of Zunyi city," says Ji Feng, a former student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China.
Credit: Ji Feng

A former student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China has been forced to leave his home in the capital and travel the country amid official pressure to relocate to the town of his birth in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

Ji Feng was initially ordered to leave Beijing ahead of the 34th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen massacre, along with dozens of other critics of the ruling Communist Party and former participants in the pro-democracy movement.

But unlike most of his peers, Ji hasn't been allowed to return to the city he calls home.

Instead, the authorities are forcing him to live in Guizhou, where he has his hukou, or household registration documentation, he told Radio Free Asia in a recent interview.

"They want to force me to go and live in a rural area, where my hometown is, in Tongzi county under the administration of Zunyi city," he said. "State security police in Zunyi have been very polite and nice to me, but I'm not allowed to go to [Guiyang], the provincial capital."

"They say there are [politically] sensitive people living here, but they won't even let me visit my uncle," said Ji, who chaired the Guizhou University Students' Autonomous Federation during the 1989 democracy movement in China.

Ji said the Guiyang authorities seemed to regard him as a "top priority.” He said he stayed at a friend's place in the city for a short time, but the state security police wouldn't leave him or his friend alone.

"They took my friend down to the police station, then had my friend bring them to his home," Ji said. "Then they called me down to the police station."

ENG_CHN_DissidentExpelled_06262023.2.jpg
"The police asked the landlord to cancel (Ji Feng’s) lease, and he was told to move out quickly," says independent journalist Gao Yu. Credit: AFP file photo

"There are about seven or eight state security police in Guiyang led by a single guy Chen Zhang, who was pretty scary," he said. "I told them to detain me, because they'd terrified my friend already."

"I didn't want my friend to face long-term harassment, threats and warnings just for meeting up with [me]," he said.

But police told Ji that while he was technically free to move around, anyone meeting with him would answer for the consequences.

Independent journalist Gao Yu said police had forced Ji out of his rented home in Songzhuang in Beijing's Tongzhou district.

"The police asked the landlord to cancel his lease, and he was told to move out quickly," Gao said. "The Beijing police told him he could go to Yanjiao [in neighboring Hebei province] and they would find an apartment for him."

"He didn't agree to that, but was forced to leave Beijing, and has been of no fixed abode since May," she said.

Gao said Ji's treatment is similar to that meted out to prominent rights lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Li Heping and their families.

She said police seem to want to isolate influential activists in remote locations, to minimize their ability to organize or meet up with like-minded people.

"The more remote a place they send you too, the less influence you will have," Gao said. 

Ji has so far refused to cave in and settle down in his hometown in Tongzi county.

Currently in the central province of Hunan, he plans to head for the southern city of Shenzhen next, and eventually to wind up back in Hebei province, not too far from Beijing.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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