Mao Portrait Protester Freed, Travels to Canada


2006.04.11
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
May, 1989. The defaced portrait of Mao Zedong hangs above Tiananmen Gate. Photo: AFP/Files

BANGKOK—A former Chinese bus driver who served a nine-year jail term for defacing a portrait of Mao Zedong during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests was on his way to Canada on Tuesday after being freed from a detention center in Bangkok.

Lu Decheng left the Thai capital on the morning of Tuesday, April 11, local time, and was scheduled to arrive in Vancouver at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, local time, his Canadian immigration sponsor Paul Cheng said.

Lu served just over nine years of a 16-year jail term for defacing the portrait during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, before being paroled early in 1998. He fled through Burma to Thailand in November 2004 and was arrested by Thai police in December 2004.

“Lu Decheng will travel from Vancouver to Calgary, where he will be settling,” Cheng said. “He has finally been able to leave Thailand without mishap.”

Fled through Burma

Cheng said Lu would be granted permanent resident status the moment he entered Canada. The Canadian government issued a visa to Lu on Feb. 21.

He is finally free. He was never happy in China, because he could never be free there. Our parting was very painful.

Lu served just over nine years of a 16-year jail term before being paroled early in 1998. He fled through Burma to Thailand in November 2004 and was arrested by Thai police in December 2004.

“I am very excited,” Lu’s wife Xia Lingcheng, who still lives in the central province of Hunan, said. “He is finally free. He was never happy in China, because he could never be free there. Our parting was very painful,” she said.

Lu, who was held in an immigration detention center in Bangkok until Monday, had been scheduled to leave for Canada March 14 under a resettlement program run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

But his departure was delayed after Chinese officials intervened with the Thai government, his Canadian immigration sponsor said at the time.

Since then, human rights groups in Canada have been putting pressure on the Canadian government to help bring Lu Decheng to Canada.

Rights group calls for explanation

Cheng said the response of Canadian officials had been swift. “The Canadian government instructed its consulate general to Thailand to take charge of the matter and to report daily to Ottawa on the latest progress. They gave the case first priority. That’s why it was resolved so quickly,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Amnesty International’s Hong Kong-based China branch called on the Thai government to clarify the reason for the delay. “We would very much like to know what happened in the interim,” Chen Xin said, while welcoming the news of Lu’s journey to Canada.

Cheng said that the five sponsors and other supporters had already made preparations to welcome Lu Decheng to Calgary:

“We have rented a place for him to live in. It’s conveniently located near a bus line to the downtown area. We will also arrange for him to get health care, a social insurance number, and learn English,” Cheng said.

“We will take good care of him.”

In 1989, Lu Decheng, along with Yu Zhijian and Yu Dongyue, traveled from Hunan to Beijing to participate in the pro-democracy protests.

The three men defaced the portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs over Tiananmen Square, for which Lu was sentenced to 16 years in jail, Yu Zhijian was sentenced to life, and Yu Dongyue was sentenced to 20 years.

Yu Dongyue was the last of the three Mao portrait protesters to be released in February, from a prison in Yuanjiang City in the central province of Hunan, where he had served a 17-year sentence.

His relatives say his mental state is close to that of a child, following repeated beatings inside the jail.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Xi Hong, and in Cantonese by Lillian Cheung. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

COMMENTS

View Full Site