6:20 am, June 4th, 1989, Fang Zheng and other classmates were evacuating from the Tiananmen Square. He turned back to save a female student. He ended up with both of his legs crushed by a tank. After June 4th, he recovered and won two gold medals in a national disabled persons’ athletic competition. But his credentials to compete in international events were taken away from him, due to his involvement in the June 4th protest.
Crushed by tanks
6H15 Le piège. Un cortège d'étudiants a quitté Tian Anmen par le sud et tente de rejoindre l'avenue Chang'An. Arrivé au carrefour Liu Bu Kou, à 50 mètre du siège du gouvernement et du parti, il tombe sur trois chars qui sortent de la place. Un tir très nourri de gaz lacrymogènes enfume l'air. Des étudiants tentent d'éviter les chars qui foncent dans le tas en escaladant les barrières. 陷阱(六四凌晨6:15)﹕一隊學生撤離天安門廣場﹐由南轉上長安街。當他們走到六部口﹐離黨政中樞機關只有50米的地方﹐三輛坦克從廣場衝來。發射的催淚彈煙霧瀰漫在空氣中。許多學生試圖跳過路邊的柵欄逃避坦克的追碾。
6H20 L’horreur. Les trois chars sont partis, les gaz se dissipent. Des temoins se précipitent sur un blessé qui s’accroche à la barrière. Sur la chaussée, il y a onze morts.
6H20-25 LES MARTYRS DE LIUBUKOU. Il a les jambes broyées par un tank. Deux hommes tentent de poser des garrots sur les jambes arrachées d'un des étudiants piégés à Liu Bu Kou.
六部口的烈士 他的雙腿被坦克搗碎(六四凌晨6:25)﹕兩個人試圖幫一位在六部口落入陷阱的大學生 [方政----本站注] 包扎被碾碎的雙腿。
National Champion of Discus and Javelin
Olympic hopeful who lost his legs in Tiananmen Square
Fang Zheng was a promising discus thrower when he dared to join the demonstrations in Beijing in 1989 – and fell under a tank. His national pride will forever be tinged with anger. Clifford Coonan hears his story
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Fang Zheng is one Chinese sporting hero whose story will not be heralded at the Beijing Olympics. When the action starts, he will be watching from a wheelchair at his home in Hefei in Anhui province, one of China's poorest.
Fang's hopes of taking the field as a discus thrower in the Games were crushed, along with his legs, under a tank in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.
His Olympic story is about politics, not sport. It was not so much the loss of his legs which cost him his career as an international athlete, as he competed very successfully in competitions for disabled athletes in the years after his injury.
Fang Zheng: lost both legs in the massacre
It was the manner in which he became disabled, losing his legs during modern China's most serious political crisis, which ruled Fang out of international competition.
"The Olympics have a great significance for China and to the Chinese people. The Games will make China more open," said Fang. His selfless, quietly expressed sentiments only partially mask a deeper anger.
He lost both legs in the massacre – his right leg was lost above the knee, his left leg amputated just below the knee. To protect himself and his family, he has to be careful what he says, especially during a week when thousands of athletes, officials and tourists descend on Beijing to celebrate the world's biggest sporting event.
His early life is the classic biography of an emerging Chinese sports star. He was fired up by China's return to the Olympic Games at Los Angeles in 1984 after a long hiatus. "I've been a sports enthusiast since my childhood, and we were all so excited back then that China was going to become part of the Olympic family again. It was one of the reasons I applied to go to the Beijing Academy of Physical Science," he said.
A patriot, he wanted to help his country win medals, and he started studying in 1985, training at night. He was inspired by the spirit of political change and idealism that swept through Beijing, coming to a head in the spring of 1989, which saw thousands of students occupy the city's central square to protest against corruption and call for democratic change.
A few months after the events in Beijing in June 1989, in cities such as Leipzig, Budapest and Prague, governments decided not to act against their people, and the chain of events which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of Eastern Europe began.
But in Beijing, the Supreme Leader, Deng Xiaoping, architect of the same reforms which saw China end its long period of isolation, Olympian and otherwise, took a different line. The Chinese government sent the tanks in to crush the fledgling democracy movement in Beijing and in other cities around the country.
The official line is that the Tiananmen Square crackdown was necessary to ensure stability, and since 1989, the government has begun to implement some of the freedoms the protesters on the square had sought, such as getting rid of rules dictating where Chinese could live or work, and even the person they could marry.
Years of strong economic growth have given millions of Chinese a say in their destinies. The government is engaged in a highly public campaign to crack down on the corruption which has blighted the country and which it once denied existed, though in the absence of a free media or speech, critics say the campaign is doomed to fail.
At the same time, power in China still belongs exclusively to the Communist Party and independent political activity is forbidden. Nearly all of China's active dissidents have been exiled or imprisoned.
The crackdown is no longer a topic of discussion these days and has become an increasingly historical problem. Students entering university this year were not born when the massacre happened, and even this year's graduating class were toddlers when it took place.
Fang tells a tale of a night of terror as the tanks rolled in early on the morning of 4 June and opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators. Along with fellow students, he ran for his life to the west of the square.
As they reached the Liubukou crossroads, grenades were thrown into the crowd from behind, and Fang heard the tracks behind him. He saw the tank approach until he thought its barrel was right in his face. He was helping a female student into a side street when his legs went under the tracks and he was dragged along behind the vehicle before hauling himself clear.
He started to train again as part of the lengthy healing process following the double-amputation, focusing on discus and javelin. In March 1992, he represented Beijing in the third All-China Disabled Athletic Games in Guangzhou, winning two gold medals and breaking two records for the Far East and South Pacific region.
He qualified for an international event in 1994 but the Sports Ministry did not allow him to take part because of fears that he would talk to foreign reporters and cause embarrassment. Deng Pufang, Deng Xiaoping's son, who was paralysed after being thrown from a window during the Cultural Revolution, tried to intervene, to no avail.
Fang has been sidelined ever since. The official version is that he lost his legs in a "traffic accident". He still feels anger but is not bitter, although the entire sports apparatus is controlled by the government and his family is poor.
"I do not plan to come to Beijing for Olympics or Paralympics. As to what happened to me, it was many years ago. I am certainly very angry about it," he said. "These days I live a very ordinary life. I am just an ordinary civilian," he said.
In memory of Tiananmen massacre: special Interview with Fang Zheng
The Epoch Times
Sixteen years ago, Beijing witnessed army gunshots on Tiananmen Square; tanks roaming along the streets; thousands of soldiers clashing with protesting students; wounded demonstrators, burned vehicles, and dead bodies. These scenes are just too gruesome for most to recall, and yet they are very much alive in some people’s memories. Sixteen years ago, Fang Zheng, a senior at the Beijing College of Sports, was struck from behind by an army tank on a street near Tiananmen Square. He was leaving the site with the last crowd of petitioning and fasting students who had been driven off by armed solders. His legs were caught, squashed, and severed, and his body was shaken as the tank rolled over him.
The following is a transcript from a special Epoch Times interview with Fang Zheng, in which he voiced his concerns of the past 16 years.
Outstanding Student with Bright Future at the Beijing College of Sports
Reporter: Hello, Mr. Fang Zheng. I learned from friends about the tragedy you endured 16 years ago and how it affected your education, work, career, and personal life. Would you like to tell overseas media about what really happened?
Fang Zheng: Yes, I would like to.
Reporter: You were still a student in Beijing when the student demonstration broke out, weren’t you? Would you tell us more about it?
Fang Zheng: Sure. In 1985, I enrolled as a freshman at the Department of Sports Theory, Beijing College of Sports, majoring in bio-dynamics in sports, after passing a competitive exam in Hefei, Anhui province. My graduation was in 1989, and I was planning to be a teacher in the Sports Department of South China Teachers College of Guangzhou.
Three or Four Thousand Students Sit in Tiananmen Square on the Night of June 4
I had been involved in the student democracy movement from May to June of 1989. From late May to June 3, I was in Tiananmen Square every day in support of the petitioning students. Soldiers were sent in on the night of June 3 when there were three or four thousand students sitting in the square. Most of the students, from Beijing and other provinces, sat around the war memorial for China’s fallen soldiers, and another group sat around a demonstrator’s copy of the Statue of Liberty in New York to the north of the monument. The square was dotted with tents.
At about 10 p.m. on June 3, we got the message that soldiers were shooting their way into the square from all sides. Many innocent people were shot at and killed. Bloodstains appeared on some people’s clothes and the atmosphere on the square became instantly tense.
Blood, Broken Glasses, Damaged Vehicles and Road Blocks Scatter the Streets
So we began to leave the square. We walked westward. When we reached the Western Changan Boulevard, it was already 4 a.m. We saw many soldiers and military vehicles on our way out. People we met would tell us how the soldiers had clashed with local citizens on the night of June 3 when they marched in and how they had opened fire on people, killing many. As we walked, we saw many gruesome scenes such as pools of blood on the ground, broken glass, damaged vehicles, road blocks, and so on. Everything happened on the night of June 3. As we were in the square, we didn’t witness these incidents on the Beijing streets.
Gas Bomb Explodes Right by My Side and a Column of Yellow and Green Smoke Rises
I was at the rear of the crowd. As we were nearing Liubukou at Western Changan Boulevard, we heard explosions behind us and then smelled choking smoke. We knew the soldiers were firing gas bombs. Before I knew what to do next, a gas bomb exploded right next to me producing a column of yellowish-green smoke, covering an area of two to three square meters. I felt dizzy and was choking.
Legs Crushed by a Tank after Saving Female Student
I was walking with a female student who was one grade lower in the same school. She was very scared and nervous about being in Tiananmen Square, so I asked her to stay close to me. Since I was older and a man, I felt obliged to protect and comfort her, and that’s why we’d been walking together when we were leaving the square. When the bomb exploded beside us, she was terrified. To protect her from the gas, I held her in my arms and escorted her toward a safe area on the sidewalk. As I turned my body, I saw from the corner of my eye a tank dashing toward me from behind. As I raised my head and looked at the tank, its gun barrel was already right above me and there was no way I could run from it. I wasted no time in pushing the girl further away. But I fell to the ground and the tank rolled over my legs. I felt squeezed and pressed as my pants were pulled into the tank's metal belts. I was still conscious, though, and I felt as though my body was being dragged along a bumpy road. My head, back, and shoulders were all bleeding. It wasn’t until my legs were severed from my body that I was freed from the metal belts. After that, my body rolled over to the road side.
Legs Amputated- the Right from the Upper Thigh and the Left from the Knee
Fang Zheng, a college student whose legs were squashed by the tank at 6:25 AM, June 4, 1989, being helped by two Beijing citizens. (Observer magazine. “Le massacre du printemps. Collectif, Chine, le roman d’une révolution inachevée, Document Observateur, No. 7, Édition Hachette, Octobre 1989, p.117.”)
I was rushed to the Jishuitan Hospital in Beijing where crowds of injured people were quickly draining the blood bank. I was near death as I bled furiously. The doctors and nurses did all they could to save my life. As a result, both my legs were cut off, with the right one amputated at the upper thigh and the left at my knee.
Number of Casualties at Liubukou Unknown
I knew that more than ten students had been either crushed to death or injured by tanks. They were from Beijing University, Beijing University of Political and Legal Affairs, Beijing Institute of Iron and Steel, and Qinghua University. Eleven were confirmed dead, and the number injured, either slightly or severely, was not known. We didn’t have a definite number of casualties. The number that our teacher, Ding Zilin, had was not accurate either. There were three or four among the injured that I knew, and I was among those seriously hurt. Kong Weizhen, another student in the Sports Department in our college, lost a leg from the knee down due to a bullet.
Three tanks roar by, leaving in their wakes clouds of gas at 6:20 AM on June 4, 1989. Witnesses rush to rescue a badly injured Fang Zheng. Eleven others lay dead around him. (Observer magazine. “Le massacre du printemps. Collectif, Chine, le roman d’une révolution inachevée, Document Observateur, No. 7, Édition Hachette, Octobre 1989, p.116.”)
Despite Losing Both Legs while Protecting Her, Female Student Refused to Testify
Reporter: What about the female student you protected? How was she?
Fang Zheng: She was not injured. I feel really disheartened, now that you mention her. At first, she came to visit me in the hospital and thanked me for saving her life. When I returned to school, the school authorities refused to believe what I told them and asked if I had acted violently; otherwise why would the tank have rolled over me? I told them that I spoke the truth and that they would be welcome to investigate it. So the school asked the girl to testify. I found her and asked her to do so. For unknown reasons, she replied, “I cannot remember what happened. I didn’t see tanks rolling over people, as I passed out.” Not only would she not testify for me, but she also refused to acknowledge that she was with me. I could sense her helplessness and evasiveness.
Professor Wu Pei and a staff member with the surname of Cao from the Beijing Institute of Iron and Steel Technology (now known as the University of Science and Technology, Beijing) came to our school to testify on my behalf. They were also eyewitnesses to the shooting at Liubukou, not far from the square. They recognized me while I was still in the hospital and gave me a lot of support. When they heard that the female student had refused to be my witness, they were enraged and decided to act as witnesses themselves. They came to talk to the leaders at my school. I was moved by what they did. I felt the power of justice.
Reporter: Where did you go after you left school in 1992?
Fang Zheng: Professor Wu saw that I had no job in Beijing so he empathized with me. His wife worked in Hainan province, which was a special economic zone with relatively more freedom. In 1992, I was a part of the Beijing team at the Third Special Sports Meet for the disabled in Guangzhou and won two gold medals. I did not go back to Beijing after that, because my school no longer accepted me. Although I had graduated by then, they refused to give me a graduation certificate or assign me a job. I decided to work for an assets management company in Hainan on Professor Wu’s referral. I arrived in Haikou, Hainan Province, on March 24, 1992. I lived in Haikou until 2000. Those few years were quite turbulent.
In 1992, I won gold medals at the sports meet in discus and javelin throwing. I was also the national record holder. However, when the Special Sports Meet was held in Beijing in 1994, they disqualified me because I was injured during the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The New York Times reported this on September 5, 1994.
Reporter: Have you lived in freedom in the last few years? Does the government have special policies pertaining to you?
Fang Zheng: I had many difficulties when living in Hainan. The police often monitored, harassed, searched and interrogated me. Whenever it was close to a “sensitive date,” such as the anniversary of the democracy movement, the police would come to my home to watch me or would cut off our phone. In May 1995, my sister and seven or eight friends were visiting from Beijing and Xi’an. The police detained them. The harassment never stopped.
After the Chinese New Year in February 1999, a friend from Beijing suggested that I move to Beijing to look for job opportunities. I agreed and began preparation to leave. I took care of all my business in Hainan and returned the apartment I had rented. I took a boat from Haikou to Zhenjiang, and rode the train from Zhenjiang to Wuchang. When I was buying a ticket at the Wuhan rail station, I was stopped by the local police. They detained me for a week. The Haikou Police Station sent a person to escort me back. They asked me, “How could you leave without telling us?” What they meant was that I couldn’t leave Haikou without their permission. I had no place to stay and no money. I also became quite sick. When I was staying at a friend’s house, I met a girl from Jiangsu who was ten years younger. We were married in 2000.
Reporter: Do you browse the Internet often?
Fang Zheng: Yes. A friend gave me his old computer when he got a new one.
Reporter: Have you read the "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party"?
Fang Zheng: Yes, I have. I have also heard some other news, including that the number of people withdrawing from the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) is around two million. I think I withdrew from the Party during the Tiananmen Democratic Movement in 1989. I was influenced by Mr. Fang Lizhi, who was an advocate for democracy, and I naively believed that we young students joining the CCP could bring in new blood, and as the membership makeup changed perhaps the CCP’s policies would change, too. That was what I thought. But the Tiananmen Square Massacre shattered my dream. I then requested to withdraw from the CCP.
Reporter: On an average day, about 20,000 people publish their statements of withdrawal from the CCP on The Epoch Times website. Would you like to openly state your withdrawal? You can use your real name or an alias.
Fang Zheng: Publishing the withdrawal statement online has a wider impact. Actually I withdrew from the Party over a decade ago, right after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, although at that time I had no opportunity to publicize it. I used my real name. Maybe you could help me write one and publish it, as it’s not convenient for me to write it. All of what I said was true. A lot of people have withdrawn from the CCP after reading the "Nine Commentaries," but it wouldn’t have been right for me to have waited that long.
Reporter: The blood on Tiananmen will not be in vain. People are already beginning to recount the crimes of the CCP. The truth of the Tiananmen Square Massacre will soon be exposed.
Fang Zheng: I am prepared to sue the CCP and request compensation.
Reporter: Thank you for accepting our interview and allowing us to hear the truth.
Fang Zheng: I thank The Epoch Times for giving us a voice of conscience.
ATTACHMENT: Fang Zheng’s Open Statement to Withdraw from the CCP
“I have read the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party." I actually withdrew from the Party right after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. At that time, I didn’t have the opportunity to publicize it. I would like to use my real name to withdraw from the CCP.
I hereby withdraw from the CCP, Youth Pioneer League, and Communist Youth League, so that I can live my life with a clear conscience.”
By Fang Zheng