Men Convicted of Defacing the Mao Portrait on Tiananmen Gate

Three men were accused of splattering the Mao Portrait which hangs on Tiananmen Gate with ink, an incident that occurred on May 23, 1989. They were: Yu Zhijian, age 27, a former teacher; Yu Dongyue, a fine arts editor for Liuyang News; Lu Decheng, age 28, a worker. In September 1989 they were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 16 years to life, on charges of "counterrevolutionary sabatoge" and "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement."

[Source: Anthems of Defeat: Crackdown in Hunan Province 1989-1992, An Asia Watch Report, Human Rights Watch, New York, 1992, pp. 41-43.]

Chen Yizi

A bureaucratic reformer within the Party and high-level government adviser. He helped devise the agricultural reforms of the Chinese countryside in the 1970s which were the precursor of the more profound economic changes that unfolded in China during the 1980s. He fled government persecution for his close involvement with the students and took up residence in the United States. Chen was interviewed for the film in June 1990, but the material was not used.

Cui Jian

Born 1961. Cui Jian is one of China's leading pop singers. Cui appeared in Tiananmen Square briefly during the protest movement and his music was often played there by students and other musicians. Along with a number of Beijing musicians, he was a founder of the rock'n'roll industry in China in the late 1980s. His work has appeared throughout Asia and on satellite TV; he has also toured Europe and America.

For an article about popular music in China, see "Official Bad Boys or True Rebels," by Geremie Barmé.

Deng Xiaoping

(1904-1997) A member of China's older revolutionary generation that included Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and others, Deng had been a key political figure since the 1950s. He was purged in the Cultural Revolution (which began in 1966) along with President Liu Shaoqi for policies that clashed with Mao's. Reinstated in the early 1970s to run the Chinese economy, he was purged by Mao again in 1976 and reinstated once more after Mao's death. He quickly became the central political leader in China and the guiding force behind the nation's economic transformation in the 1980s and early 1990s. He was dubbed the Grand Architect of Reform by the Chinese media.

Fang Lizhi

The astrophysicist and dissident who was an outspoken mentor of pro-democracy agitation in China throughout the 1980s, and his wife, Li Shuxian, a science lecturer at Beijing University who influenced such student activists as Wang Dan, a key figure in Gate.

For an extended article about Fang Lizhi, published in 1988, see Orville Schell, "China's Andrei Sakharov."

Gao Xin

Born 1955. Gao Xin was a lecturer and editor of the university paper at Beijing Normal University. He joined the four-man hunger strike organized by Liu Xiaobo on June 2nd. He was the only Communist Party member among the four hunger strikers. One of the very last people to leave the Square on the morning of June 4th, Gao was arrested, jailed for five months and expelled from the Party. He now works in Boston as a freelance writer and journalist.

He Xin

A prolific writer and conservative intellectual who, after 4 June, publicly supported the actions of the government and was highly critical of pro-Western intellectuals and writers in China. He Xin has pursued his highly conservative approach during the 1990s and although showered with government favors for a time has, in recent years, fallen back into the obscurity from which he came.

He Yong

A musician in his mid-twenties. Educated in traditional Chinese music by his parents, He Yong became a follower of Cui Jian in the late 1980s. His former group, "May Day," performed in Tiananmen Square after the declaration of martial law, a concert featured in THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE. His music videos have appeared on Chinese television and throughout Asia. His most rambunctious song, "Garbage Dump," is featured in the film, although he is equally known for songs that reflect a milder, more romantic mood.

For an article about popular music in China, see "Official Bad Boys or True Rebels," by Geremie Barmé.

Hu Yaobang

Born 1916. One of the youngest of the "Long March" generation of Chinese Communists, Hu became Communist Party General Secretary in 1981. He was accused of being soft on "bourgeois liberalism," and forced to resign from his position in January 1987. His death on April 15, 1989 became the catalyst for the 1989 protest movement.

Li Peng

Premier of the People's Republic of China from 1987 to 1998; see "Li Peng Retires, but His Infamy for Tiananmen Massacre Endures," The New York Times, March 11, 2003, and PBS Newshour's profile for more information.

Liu Binyan

A veteran journalist whose writings on the abuse of power in China reached a wide readership from the late 1970s. For many he was the public conscience of the Communist Party. After being persecuted for his writings in 1987, he moved to the United States in 1988 where he lived in exile. Liu was interviewed for the film in June 1990, but the material was not used. He was a participant in the China Symposium '89, a forum to discuss some of the major cultural and political issues then facing China; the symposium was held in the United States in late April 1989, just after the protests in Beijing had begun. Liu Binyan passed away in 2005 (The Guardian, Dec. 7, 2005). See also Time Magazine, Asian Heroes.

Lu Xun (1881-1936)

One of the greatest and most irascible cultural figures of twentieth-century China. He was a medical doctor by training but became a leading writer of fiction and social criticism during the May Fourth period (1917-1927). He remained an independent and outspoken critic until his death in 1936. He has been claimed by the Communists as their leading literary champion, but his literary and cultural legacies confound all attempts to categorize him.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976)

A leading Chinese revolutionary, Chairman of the Communist Party and founder of the People's Republic of China. Despite disastrous policies that led to economic problems and millions of deaths, Mao is still revered both officially and by large segments of the population as a great leader and patriot.

Su Xiaokang

Born 1949. He was a lecturer at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute and one of the most popular authors of the "new journalism" in China during the 1980s. He was one of the authors of "River Elegy," a highly popular and controversial 1988 TV documentary that was critical of Chinese culture and political life. The program was later blamed by the government for having played a role in inciting the protests of 1989. Su Xiaokang fled China after June 4th, 1989 and now resides in the United States, where he began editing a new political journal, Democratic China.

Wang Chaohua

An older student activist and daughter of a prominent university professor. She was an important moderating figure during the period up to the end of the hunger strike (May 19). Wang has been particularly self-critical in her comments on her role in Protest Movement and outspoken about the need for student leaders to accept responsibility for their actions. Wang does, however, feature in the hagiographic biopic of Li Lu, "Moving the Mountain" (dir. Michael Apted, 1994) where she is noteworthy for her honesty in discussing her role in 1989. She is among those profiled in "Tiananmen: The Flame Burns On," The Observer, May 3, 2009.

Wang Juntao

Born 1959. Wang was imprisoned for over seven months for his participation in the Tiananmen Incident of April 1976. He was deputy editor of Beijing Spring, an unofficial magazine first published during the Democracy Wall movement. Wang graduated from Beijing University in 1981, joined the Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute (SERI) in the late 1980s, and was deputy editor of SERI's newspaper, Economics Weekly, at the time of the 1989 demonstrations. Accused of being one of the "black hands" behind the '89 movement, Wang was sentenced to thirteen years in prison in 1991. Due to his poor health, Wang was released four years later, and he currently lives in the United States. Wang is among those profiled in "Tiananmen: The Flame Burns On," The Observer, May 3, 2009.

For more about Wang Juntao and the 1976 Tiananmen Incident, see "The Tiananmen Poems," from Brushes with Power by Richard Curt Kraus.

Wei Jingsheng

Born 1950. An activist in the Democracy Wall events of 1978-1979, Wei called for democracy to become China's "Fifth Modernization" and a precondition of the realization of other aspects of modernization. In March 1979 he was detained, and in October he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for "revealing military secrets." Released on parole in September 1993, Wei was forbidden to take part in political activities for three years and told not to publish articles overseas. He ignored these interdictions and was taken into custody in March 1994. In July 1995, his sister Wei Shanshan, who now lives in Germany, filed charges against the Chinese authorities for violating legal procedures in handling Wei Jingsheng's case. In December 1995, Wei Jingsheng was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for his political activities. Nearly two years later, in November 1997, Wei was released from prison and flown to the United States, where he received medical treatment. He is now at Columbia University in New York.

Xiao Bin

Born 1947. Formerly a worker at the Dalian (Liaoning Province) Xinghai Aluminum Window Factory, Xiao was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment on July 13th, 1989 for "propagating counter-revolutionary lies" and "vilifying the righteous acts of the martial law troops" in Beijing in an interview with ABC News shortly after June 4th. The satellite feed of this interview was intercepted by the Chinese government, which then broadcast it on TV and called on viewers to turn in the "rumor-monger."

Yan Mingfu

In 1989, Yan was the head of the Ministry of United Front Work in the State Council. This ministry handled liaison with intellectuals and other groups not directly controlled by the Communist Party. During the 1989 movement, he made personal appeals to the students "to give the reformers in the government time to resolve problems." He was ousted from his position following June 4th.

Yuan Mu

A veteran Party propagandist, Yuan was the State Council's official government spokesman in 1989.

Zhao Ziyang

General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1987-1989, and previously Premier of the State Council. In May 1989, Zhao voted against the imposition of martial law. After June 4th, Zhao was accused of "splitting the Party" and relieved of his position. He died in January 2005.

Zhou Enlai (1898-1976)

A member of China's older revolutionary generation, and Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China until his death in January 1976. Mass commemorations for Zhou on the traditional memorial day in April of that year were denounced by the extremists in the government as counter-revolutionary instigation masterminded by Deng Xiaoping.