Funeral Held for Man Who Inspired Tiananmen Protest

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Fang Lizhi, one of China’s most well-known dissidents, whose speeches inspired student protesters in the buildup to the 1989 Tiananmen student movement, was buried this past week in Arizona. He died at the age of 76 earlier this month.

"Democracy will not automatically emerge as a result of growing prosperity," Fang told a crowd of young protesters gathered in central Beijing more than twenty years ago to demand political freedom.

Fang was recognized as one of the movement’s spiritual leaders. He and his wife were secretly ferried onto the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where they remained for 13 months after the movement.

In exile, Fang worked as a physics professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His funeral was held at the University of Arizona last Saturday. During the ceremony, Fang's wife, Li Shuxian, told KTSF, "We had a hard time on the revolutionary road. However, [my husband] and I do not regret what we did because it inspired younger generations."

Several former student leaders who took part in the Tiananmen movement and remain in exile in the United States also expressed their grief at Fang’s death.

"I have known Fang and Li for over 20 years,” Dan Wang told KTSF. “As exiles overseas, we were like a family… I hope the Chinese people will never forget that there was once a thinker like Fang Lizhi. He inspired the '89 generation."

Fellow dissident Renhua Wu said, "I come here not only to represent myself but also the ‘89 generation."

Perry Link, who teaches comparative literature and foreign languages at the University of California Riverside, was among those who helped Fang and his wife gain entrance into the U.S. Embassy as the protests grew. "Fang was one of China's most famous scientists,” Link told KTSF, “and equally famous for his bold and unflinching defense of democracy and human rights in China."