Lunch with a Wheelchair Bound Chinese Dissident
多伦多支持中国民运会于3月25日在多伦多举行新闻发布会 ，新闻发布会邀请了两位经历6.4的人士，方正（左二）和李兰菊（左一）。摄影：贾宁扬 大中报/096.ca。
In a Markham restaurant, I had a lunch buffet with Fang Zheng, the man who lost both his legs during the June 4th students’ demonstration at Tienanmen Square over 25 years ago. Settling in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 2009, Fang made his first visit to Toronto ahead of an event in memorializing June 4th.
Fang’s legs were crushed underneath a tank run by the Chinese military. His right leg was amputated midway his thigh and his left below the knee. A newspaper photo taken moments afterward captured the horrific, bloody scene. Chinese doctors were able to save Fang's life but not his legs, leaving him wheelchair-bound -- and blacklisted as a political dissident.
It was my first time to meet him, the well-known Chinese dissent, who devoted his career in promoting democracy in China. After helping him settle down on the chairs around the restaurant table, Fang shared with me of his experiences and the tragedy that touched and shocked the entire world. Open, honest, simple and blunt, Fang showed a fresh image of an ordinary new immigrant, an image that is in sharp contrast with the rich newcomers from China.
"In the blink of an eye, the tank was approaching the sidewalk and closing in on me. It seemed as if the barrel of its gun was inches from my face. I could not dodge it in time. I threw myself to the ground and began to roll. But it was too late. My upper body fell between two treads of the tank, but both my legs were run over," Fang said in a testimony before a human rights commission in the US.
"The treads rolled over my legs and my pants, and I was dragged for a distance. I used all my strength to break free and to roll to the side of the road."
According to Fang, the authorities investigating the case urged him to deny the government's role in his accident, and blame his disability on a random event, to which he refused.
“They wanted me to keep quiet about the fact that a tank had crushed students. But I refused,” he testified.
“They used tanks to chase students,” said Fang. “I wasn’t able to run away from it.”
While the exact number of students who died or were injured in the incident is unknown, Fang said his rough estimate reached over 10,000.
“In the hospital I was treated, there were over 500 students… Hospital rooms were not enough for the students, and we were all lying on the floors in the meeting room.”
Fang told me that prior to leaving China, he had been kept under close surveillance by the Chinese authorities. Although he has never been charged with any criminal offences, he was detained by the local police for several times. He was not allowed to carry a passport to leave the country. During the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the government tightened its grip on the dissidents. As a result, his freedom was restrained, and he was frequently harassed by communist officials.
A New Start
Despite what he went through, Fang has never cast himself as a freedom fighter. He briefly and casually described his feelings in the tragedy that left him permanently disabled, as if he was talking about someone else’s story.
“I wasn’t a hero or something, and I wasn’t a student leader… I was just one of the hundreds of thousands of students who were petitioning for democracy.”
Fang says he enjoys his new life in the US.
“San Francisco is a beautiful city. Trees and grass give out fresh air as the sun shines through most of day in a year… In terms of quality of living, I enjoy a better life in the US, although I am a low-income earner here,” said Fang.
Fang told me that the life of his family depends on his disability allowance, and subsidies provided for low-income people from the US government. Two years ago, he purchased a small townhouse using his savings and the money donated by the public, which proved to be a sound financial strategy.
方表示：“我从政府那里领取不到2000美金，但我却没有按揭贷款... 这样的收入够我们一家四口（两个孩子和一个即将出生）得到一份体面而舒适的生活... 我对目前的生活非常满意。”
“I had less than $2000 a month income from the government, but I had no mortgages… The income can afford our family of four (two kids and one more coming) a decent and comfortable living… I am pretty satisfied with what I’ve got,” said Fang.
Fang volunteers in an association in the US to that intends to help promote the democracy process in China. “I will work on it for the rest of my life… I owe my efforts and contributions to those who lost their lives to the government crackdown and those who have helped and supported me throughout my life,” said Fang.
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