China: Free Jailed Tiananmen Participants, Supporters, and Advocates for Justice

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China: Free Jailed Tiananmen Participants, Supporters, and Advocates for Justice

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, May 31, 2024) Ahead of the 35th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Massacre, CHRD urges the Chinese government to release 27 individuals involved in the pro-democracy movement as participants, supporters, or advocates for accountability. The 27 are currently in detention or prison on the mainland or in Hong Kong.

“For 35 years, all top Chinese leaders, from Li Peng to Xi Jinping, have been fixated on erasing memories of June 4 by persecuting those who peacefully seek accountability. Everyone who cares about justice should publicly call on Chinese authorities to end decades of brutal enforcement of amnesia,” said Renee Xia, CHRD director. 

CHRD urges all democracies to mark this June 4 by calling on Beijing to immediately and unconditionally release these and all other prisoners of conscience in China.

Leaders of democracies engaging with the Chinese government should publicly condemn that government for its ongoing punishment of participants and supporters of the 1989 prodemocracy movement. That repression aimed at stamping out activists’ peaceful actions promoting human rights, rule of law and democracy.

We ask allies in the global struggle for human rights and democracy to commemorate and demand justice for victims of the Tiananmen Massacre, and in particular, for three 1989 prodemocracy leaders who were subsequently persecuted to death after being subjected to arbitrary imprisonment and inhumane punishment: Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), Yang Tongyan (杨同彦), Li Wangyang (李旺阳).

Some of the 27 individuals highlighted in this statement played leadership roles or participated in the protests in 1989 as young students; others were labor organizers acting in solidarity with the students. Some had previously served wrongful prison terms for their role in 1989 and resumed their activities after they were released.

Others who became activists after 1989 have been pivotal in sustaining the memory of Tiananmen across China and in Hong Kong. They too have been targeted with harsh reprisal as the Chinese Communist Party state seeks to whitewash its history of atrocities.

The following list of 27 cases is far from being complete, yet it is a window to the severity, scale, and persistence of reprisals by the Chinese government over the past 35 years.

1. 1989 participants serving prison sentences or in pre-trial detention for continuing activism:

Zhou Guoqiang (周国强) served prison time for organizing a labor strike in support of student protests in Beijing in 1989. He also served 4 years in a re-education-through-labor camp from 1994 to 1998, also for labor organizing work. He was arrested for online comments in October 2023. His whereabouts and the charge against him remain unknown.

• Guangdong activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) has been serving a six-year sentence since 2015 for his human rights activism. Guo took part in the 1989 movement as a student in Shanghai.

• China Democracy Party member Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) of Hangzhou has been serving a 10.5-year since 2016 for his pro-democracy advocacy. In 1989, Chen participated in the movement as a university student.

• China Democracy Party member Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) has been serving an 11-year sentence since 2016 for his pro-democracy advocacy. Lü was a teacher in Hangzhou who was dismissed in 1993 for supporting the democracy movement.

• Beijing-based lawyer Xia Lin (夏霖) has been serving a 11-year sentence since 2016 for his professional work as a lawyer. Xia participated in the 1989 movement as a student at the Southwest Institute of Political Science and Law in Chongqing.

• Xinjiang activist Zhao Haitong (赵海通) has been serving a 14-year sentence since 2014 for his activities as a human rights defender. He was jailed in the aftermath of the 1989 massacre.

Xu Na (许那) participated in the student protests, including a hunger strike, on Tiananmen Square in 1989. She was arrested in 2020 and sentenced to 8 years in jail for “using an evil cult to disrupt law enforcement”.

• Sichuan activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞) served a four-year sentence from 2015-2019, in part for organizing a memorial to June Fourth victims. Chen participated in the 1989 movement as a student at the China Agricultural University in Beijing.

Xu Guang (徐光),  participated in student pro-democracy movements in 1986 and 1989, was arrested in 2022, and is now serving a 4-year sentence on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏), a student participant in the 1989 movement, was arrested in 2021 and sentenced to four years on the  charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in Sichuan province.

Cao Peizhi (曹培植), a participant in the 1989 prodemocracy movement and eyewitness to the Tiananmen massacre, was detained in 2022 and is now serving a 2.2-year prison sentence after his conviction for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in Henan province.

Zhang Zhongshun (张忠顺), a student participant in the 1989 protests; later, as a professor, he talked about June 4th in his class in 2007 and was reported to the police. He was subsequently jailed for three years, and is now detained for continuing to support activism, and faces a charge of subversion, in Shandong province.

Wang Yifei (王一飞), has disappeared into police custody since his detention in 2021.  He was jailed for two years in 2018-19 on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Before his arrest in 2018, he had for several years been calling for justice for 1989 victims, urging people to remember those who died in the June 4th massacre.

Shi Tingfu (史庭福) provided support to the student protesters in 1989. He was detained for staging a public vigil and delivering a passionate speech about remembering the victims of the Tiananmen massacre in Nanjing on June 4, 2017. He was arrested in January 2024, and is awaiting trial on several charges including spreading false information, and inciting terrorism and extremism in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

2. Detainees and prisoners punished for, among other actions, commemorating Tiananmen, and seeking justice:

Zhang Haitao (张海涛) serving a 19-year prison sentence in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region since 2015 upon conviction of “inciting subversion of state power” & “providing intelligence overseas.” Among other things, he was punished for trying to commemorate June 4th on the 25th anniversary of the massacre.

Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) openly called for justice for victims of Tiananmen Massacre and  release of all political prisoners in 1993, for which he was sent to a re-education labor camp for two years. He was arrested in 2015, and sentenced to 13 years in jail on the charge of subversion in Hubei province.

Huang Qi (黄琦), founder of an organization with a website named “6.4 Tianwang” to report on human rights news in the spirit of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, was imprisoned for the second time in 2016 on charges of “leaking” and “providing” “state secrets” overseas,and is currently serving a 12-year term in prison.

Yang Shaozheng (杨绍政), a professor, who was arrested in 2021, and sentenced to 4.5 years for inciting subversion in Guizhou province. He posted information online about the number of student protesters killed in 1989 in a WeChat group in June 2019. He was summoned by police and interrogated, during which, he was subjected to tortured.

Zeng Yuxuan (曾雨璇), jailed for six months in Hong Kong for planning to commemorate June 4th on the eve of June 4, 2023. was After being forcibly deported to the mainland in October 2023, she has since disappeared.

Tong Hao (仝浩), born in 1987, a doctor, was jailed for 1.5 years for posting about June 4th to mark the anniversary in 2020. He was arrested in August 2023 and has since been disappeared into police custody in Jiangsu province.

Yu Qian (余钱) held a vigil and hunger strike to mark the anniversary of June 4th in 2010 and police summoned him for questioning. In October 2022, he was arrested by police in Hubei province after he posted online “Speaking out on 6.4 is not guilty of any crime, eavesdropping on citizens’ communication is” and challenged the government’s harsh COVID-19 policies.  He has since been forcibly disappeared.

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人), an organizer of Hong Kong mass demonstration in support of Tiananmen protests in 1989, who also organized a donation drive in HK and delivered the donations to students on Tiananmen Square, is a leading figure in the annual June 4th candlelight vigils in HK since 1989, is now detained waiting for trial in HK on national security charges.

Jimmy Lai (黎智英), a longtime supporter of the 1989 movement and exile student leaders from Hong Kong; now detained, convicted of some charges, and waiting for trial for organizing candlelight vigils on the anniversary of Tiananmen in HK in 2020.

Albert Ho (何俊仁), a longtime supporter of the 1989 movement, lawyer and advocate for protection of rights lawyers on the mainland, was arrested by Hong Kong’s national security police in March 2023 while he was out on bail, since August 2022for “illegal 6.4 assembly” to hold a candlelight vigil on the anniversary of Tiananmen in 2020, in Hong Kong.

Chow Hang-Tung (邹幸彤), jailed for 1 year and 3 months in Hong Kong for “inciting others to participate in assembly to commemorate June 4th” to mark the anniversaries in 2020 and 2021, has recently been arrested again (while already in prison) on “seditious intent” charges under Hong Kong’s new national security law allegedly relating to June 4.  She is also awaiting trial on an earlier charge of “inciting subversion” in Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong (黄之锋), jailed for 10 months in HK for “illegal gathering” to hold a candlelight vigil for the June 4th anniversary in 2021, is now detained and awaiting trial on the charge of “inciting subversion” in Hong Kong.

Claudia Mo (毛孟静), a journalist who reported in Beijing on the student protests and the massacre in 1989, is now detained in Hong Kong waiting for trial on the charge of “inciting subversion.”

3. Prominent figures in the 1989 prodemocracy movement: Persecuted to death

• Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) died in police control in July 2017 from liver cancer. Liu had been serving an 11-year sentence since 2009 for his leading role in the “Charter 08” campaign. A university lecturer in 1989, he was jailed for 18 months for taking part in the 1989 movement.

• Jiangsu writer Yang Tongyan (杨同彦) died in November 2017 from brain cancer. He had only been granted medical parole in August 2017, weeks before his death, despite his family’s years-long efforts to secure his release for medical treatment. Yang had been serving a 12-year sentence handed down in 2006 for his political activism. He was jailed for 10 years for participating in the 1989 movement.

• Labor activist Li Wangyang (李旺阳) died under suspicious circumstances on June 6, 2012 while in a hospital under police surveillance in Shaoyang, Hunan province. Li, a labor leader in the 1989 democracy movement, was sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison. Chinese authorities claimed that Li committed suicide by hanging himself in his hospital room, a claim his family disputed as Li was blind and deaf from torture and would not have been physically capable of hanging himself. Against the wishes of Li’s family, Hunan authorities conducted their own autopsy and then cremated his body.

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, many democratic governments called on Beijing to end its repression and account for its actions, especially the killings of peaceful protestors. But as time passed and Beijing grew into an economic powerhouse and resisted that pressure, many democracies muted their concerns about the 1989 massacre, the impunity, and reprisals against its participants.

“Accountability for June 4th atrocities three decades ago might have prevented subsequent crimes against humanity by the Chinese state, and saved lives. To keep any hopes alive, anyone concerned about justice should stand with the courageous activists as long as they suffer reprisals for seeking justice,” said Xia.

For our previous actions related to June 4th, see

For more information, please contact:

Renee Xia, Executive Director, CHRD, at

Brenda Barty, Chief Operation Officer, at

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