WASHINGTON—A promising Chinese athlete whose legs were crushed by a tank during the military crackdown on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement has been granted political asylum after traveling to the United States for new prosthetic limbs.
Fang Zheng, 42, who danced a waltz at an event honoring him on Capitol Hill, which was carried on national television, said he had given two reasons to U.S. officials considering his application.
“One reason was that the Chinese government has already inflicted a great deal of physical and emotional suffering on me because I was injured in the June 4, 1989 crackdown,” Fang said.
“They have refused to this day to pay me any compensation, and suppress me instead.”
Fang said that just before he left China last year, he was warned by public security officials that he could face problems getting back in again.
“The second reason was that [they] threatened that if I did or said anything on this overseas trip that they didn’t like, that they would prevent me from coming back to China,” Fang said.
Duty to speak out
“I left the country right on the 20th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown, so I thought it was my duty and responsibility to tell the truth about what happened,” said Fang, who was partially crushed and dragged on a Beijing boulevard as crowds fled the scene in panic.
Fang, whose wife and daughter are also now in the United States, said he had been welcomed and taken care of by exiled 1989 student veterans Zhou Fengsuo and Feng Congde, and was looking forward to beginning a new, happier, and healthier life.
In his senior college year when he joined thousands of students in calls for democracy and rule of law on Tiananmen Square in the early summer of 1989, Fang was an accomplished sprinter with Olympic ambitions.
Later, he went on to participate in the third All-China Disabled Athletic Games in Guangzhou in 1992, where he won two gold medals in discus throwing.
But his career was blocked from further development by Chinese leaders, who regarded him as a troublemaker, and he underwent two decades of close surveillance and harassment by police.
Original reporting in Mandarin by CK. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.