A tank crushed Fang Zheng’s legs as he fled from Tiananmen Square. Two years later, the star athlete broke two Asian records.
ChinaAid ContactsOctober 5, 2009
WASHINGTON, DC–To celebrate his heroic dedication and perseverance, former Tiananmen Square student leaders will be joining re-enabled Chinese athlete Fang Zheng in a celebration of his receiving new legs and witness this human rights hero’s stand for freedom. The event will be held in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Room HVC-215, at 4:00 PM, Wednesday, October 7, and will be attended by US Members of Congress as well as other distinguished guests concerned with human rights and freedom in China.
A star collegiate sprinter, who qualified to compete in the Olympic Games for China, Fang Zheng’s dreams were cut short, when he pushed a fellow Tiananmen student out of the way of an oncoming tank, only to have his legs crushed beneath its treads on that fateful June 4th day in 1989. Undeterred by the loss of his legs, Fang Zheng refused to stop competing, and the former sprinter shifted his focus to other track events. The Chinese government feared Fang Zheng’s status as a national athletic figure would raise awareness of his injuries at the hand of the People’s Liberation Army. The pressured him to publicly state he had suffered the loss of his legs in an accident; when Fang Zheng refused, they denied him his degree from the Beijing College of Physical Science, and forcefully warned him not to speak with foreign media.
In 1992, he medalled in both discus and javelin events, breaking Asian records in the All-China Disabled Athletic Games. When he qualified for the Far East and South Pacific Disabled Games, he was again pressured into silence. Fang Zheng agreed to keep the story of his legs quiet in order to compete, but was still banned from the competition. Barred from all future competitions, Fang Zheng looked for alternative work, even working on the streets in Hainan, as he was repeatedly harassed by the China National Security Bureau. He began telling his story to the media, exposing the truth of Tiananmen and his treatment. Security forces frequently cut his communication and power sources, hoping to deter him from speaking out. He was detained for 10 days at a train station in 1999, while traveling to Beijing to look for work, and was denied job opportunities for his lack of credentials and degree.
Miraculously, in 2008, Fang Zheng was granted a visa to the United States. Upon arriving in early 2009, he met with ChinaAid employees, human rights activists Zhou Fengsuo, Chai Ling, and Michael Horowitz, and US Congressmen Pitts and Wolf, as well as many others who were compelled by his story. The Ossur Corporation offered to donate new legs to him, and in the care of Dr. Terrence Sheehan and other specialists at the Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital in Maryland, the sprinter has once again been able to stand on his own two feet.
Click here to see Radio Free Asia’s coverage of Fang Zheng walking with new legs, 10/2/2009.
Fang Zheng’s powerful story has inspired many in China who have been repressed and denied their fundamental freedoms of speech and belief. He has used his story to expose the truth of human rights adversity in China, and is a living testimony that change can happen. Fang Zheng firmly believes that the time is coming when all in China will experience true freedom.
Join Fang Zheng and his friends and family in celebration, as he stands for freedom, and leads his wife in their first dance. Fang Zheng’s New Steps for Freedom will be held at 4:00 PM in the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, Room HVC-215. To attend, Please RSVP to [email protected]
Click here to view and print out the formal event invitation.
The event is being co-sponsored by the following organizations:
Initiatives for China
China Rights Network
Chinese Alliance for Democracy
Federation for a Democratic China