W’uer Kaixi, an etnic Uighur and leader of the 1989 student protests in Beijing, says that to this day he still lives in exile because he stood up for political reform in an era where social disenfranchisement was the order of the day, writes Sarah O’Brien
The outspoken political commentator has not been able to see his parents since he was forced to flee to France. On four occasions Kaixi attempted to get himself arrested by Chinese authorities in a bid to be allowed see his parents again, even if it was only as an inmate. Kaixi has been unsuccessful in his attempts as the Chinese authorities refuse to arrest him and let him clear his name in court. The embassy instead chose to deport W’uer back to Taiwan.
Kaixi said in a 2009 interview with Guernica magazine: “I remember somebody approached me and said (that) he remembered that right after Tiananmen followed the independence of East Timor and Mr. Mandela emerging from prison, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He thought that the world was becoming a better place.’ ’This is what has kept W’uer Kaixi strong in his convictions in the need to fight for democracy and a better life for Chinese people.
The Tiananmen Square dissent originated from the death of Hu Yaobang, a Communist party member who favoured transparency in the Chinese government and social and economic reform for his people. Hu Yaobang’s liberal attitude towards reform brought about unrest within the party, some of whom sought to blame the General Secretary for the widespread student protests that were taking place. Yaobang’s liberal political attitude and values were used as a scapegoat for the protests and he was forced to step down as General Secretary.
When Yaobang died, a large scale student protest, 100,000 strong, marched in Tianamen Square to grieve for a man who had opposed the corruption of the party elite and had spoken out about wrongdoings against the Chinese people. The students demanded free speech, freedom of the press, governmental transparency and accountability.
There were over 1000,000 protesters believed to have been present in Tianamen Square at the height of the dissent, which soon became bolstered by the student-led hunger strike that followed around the country.
One such hunger striker was W’uer Kaixi, who was a leader of the Tianamen Square protest.
The figures of how many students died during the Tianamen protests are still unknown as China has placed an embargo on any information concerning the uprising. The Communists parties’ nationalistic attitude of what it means to be Chinese and what their cultural traditions and values are and should continue to be, has been a sticking point for W’uer Kaixi, as it left no room for debate.
Kaixi firmly believed that the oppression of minorities in the Chinese occupied lands of Tibet and Xinjiang was furthering civil unrest and that Chinese people should be allowed choose whether the occupation should continue for themselves.
W’uer Kaixi, who famously admonished Premier Li Peng on national television for his apathy towards his poor, hungry constituents, was exiled from China for his flagrant disgust with governmental policy and his involvement in the 1989 student protests.
It’s been 26 years since W’uer was exiled from his home country, an exile by his own admission, he very much regrets. Though he still firmly believes that democracy is an eventual means to gain freedom from political oppression and that China will keep fighting until it is free.
W’uer also studied in America for some time before immigrating to Taiwan, where he became a radio host and political commentator. Kaixi continues to broadcast the injustices being done to the Chinese people by their government.