One of the exiled leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 got the cold shoulder from the Chinese embassy in Washington on Friday when he tried to turn himself in to return home.
Wuer Kaixi, 44, who now lives in Taiwan, wants to see his frail and aging parents in Urumqi, northwest China, as well as ignite a dialogue on reform with China’s communist leadership — even if it means standing trial.
However, when he went to the bunker-like Chinese embassy in the US capital, the dissident activist found the smoked-glass doors locked, and no one responded when he rang the doorbell and dialed an off-hours telephone number.
Telephone calls into the embassy by an Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene also went unanswered.
“Well, I guess this is as close as I can get to Chinese soil,” said Wuer Kaixi, who last tried to surrender at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, where Japanese police arrested him for trespassing and held him for two days.
“If I want to go home, what does it take? It’s office hours. I call then and ring the bell, but no one comes,” he said, adding that he would next take his case to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Yang Jianli, president of Washington-based group Initiatives for China who was on hand to support Wuer Kaixi at the embassy, said “the Chinese government is doing everything it can to erase the memory of Tiananmen Square.”
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the Chinese government sent in tanks and soldiers to clear the square in Beijing on the night of June 3 and 4, 1989, and ended six weeks of unprecedented pro-democracy protests.
Wuer Kaixi, then a student at Beijing Normal University, was among several Tiananmen leaders and hunger strikers who escaped to the US in the weeks after the crackdown.
An official Chinese Communist Party verdict after the Tiananmen protests branded the movement a “counter-revolutionary rebellion,” although the wording has since been softened.
Asked as an exile of 23 years what advice he would give blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠), who escaped house arrest last month and plans to come to the US, Wuer Kaixi suggested patience.
Chen “is a hero,” Wuer Kaixi said. “Everybody in the world should embrace him.
“But he needs to take this good time [in the US] to take a good rest” before joining other exiles in “a group effort ... a team effort” to bring about change in China, he added.
Wuer Kaixi was among six Tian-anmen activists in exile who last month sent a letter to Beijing saying they had been deprived of their right to return to their homeland and denied Chinese travel documents abroad.
Wuer Kaixi is now a political commentator in Taiwan. His gesture on Friday drew only a handful of reporters and a single US Secret Service diplomatic security officer.