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Wei Jingsheng

Wei Jingsheng (2014 in his office/home near Washington DC)

... was born in 1950 in Beijing, his father was a high-ranking PLA und Party cadre. In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, Wei joined the Red Guards and quickly became a member of their Beijing steering committee. Later, during political purges, he was told to work in his father's home village in Anhui. There he experienced the damages caused by Mao's policies during the Great Famine of the early sixties, and he began for the first time to develop doubts about Mao's teachings. From 1969 to 1973 Wei served in the army, after his demobilization he was attributed a post as an electrician in the Beijing zoo.

In 1978 Wei quickly became a prominent figure in the Democracy Wall Movement, when he posted his famous dazibao "The Fifth Modernization" demanding freedom and democracy in addition to the officially propagated modernizations of agriculture, industry, military affairs and science. Together with Yang Guang and Lu Lin he also founded the independent magazine "Explorations" ("Tansuo").

On March 25, 1979, Wei posted another famous text "Democracy or a New Dictatorship", where he personally attacked China's new paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, accusing him of being a dictator "no better than Mao". Two days later Wei was arrested, in October 1979 he was brought to trial and accused of having leaked military secrets (on China's war with Vietnam) to foreign reporters and of having agitated for the overthrow of the government and the "socialist system". He was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Liu Qing and other editors of the journal "April 5th Forum" published a secretly recorded transcript of the trial and of Wei's defence speech, for which Liu was also sentenced to several year of prison.

In 1993, when Beijing bid for the Summer Olympics, Wei was released at first, but arrested again in the following year and handed another 14 years' prison term for having "attempted to overthrow the government". 

In 1996, still in prison, Wei was awarded the European Sakharov Price for Freedom of Thought. In 1997, in the wake of a planned visit to China by US President Bill Clinton, Wei Jingsheng was allowed to leave for the United States "to receive medical treatment".

Wei continued to lobby for human rights and freedoms in China, meeting politicians, giving interviews and participating in meetings of the democracy movement in exile. At the beginning he received ample financial support from US human rights organisations and sources in Taiwan, but funds have dried up since and his "Wei Jingsheng Foundation" had to give up their office in downtown Washington D.C. Wei Jingsheng now continues to work from his home in suburban Washington.

 

 

Interview with Wei Jingsheng (on June 9, 2014 in his office/home in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, USA)

Here you find the Chinese text of the interview (an English translation will be provided later).


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