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World - Asia/Pacific

China's dissidents: Division in the ranks

From top: Chai Ling, Li Lu, Wuer Kaixi, Wang Dan

Tiananmen legacy (Originally posted June 26, 1998)

China democracy (June 1998)

China military (June 1998)

Families still mourn the loss of their loved ones, and some hope for a public investigation. CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon talks with them.
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See this gallery of the sequence of events at Tiananmen


June 3, 1999
Web posted at: 10:03 a.m. EDT (1403 GMT)

(CNN) -- Ten years after the Tiananmen Square military crackdown that left hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead and wounded, the Chinese dissident community remains deeply divided.

Some activists hoped the June 4, 1989, killings would serve as a grim rallying point for dissidents hoping to elevate their cause on the world stage.

But 10 years on, some of the leading student dissidents have reassessed their political goals, and dissident lobby groups in the United States are racked by internal rivalries.

CNN & Time Correspondent Kathy Slobogin interviewed four former dissidents who became known as the "heroes of Tiananmen".

In 1989, Chai Ling was one of the most wanted women in China. Then a 23-year-old psychology graduate student, she was the student demonstrators' commander-in-chief.

Li Lu was Chai's deputy and one of the last student demonstrators to leave the square. The two other most prominent Tiananmen Square student leaders were Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi.

Wang was a Beijing university student who was considered the brains of the movement. Wang was arrested and jailed. The other three student leaders were smuggled out of the country to the United States.

"The reality was I lost my country, I lost my mom, my grandma, I lost my love when I first came here, and I lost everything I had. Yet at the same time, you had to give speeches, you had to tell the world how China would change," Chai said.

"I had to give a speech and tell people the answers, the cures for China's democracy which they haven't been able to resolve in the past thousand years. It was a wild situation," she said.

Last year, with his Tiananmen credentials opening doors, Li Lu started his own New York-based hedge fund. While he has remained a member of human rights organizations, Li admits he has moved to the sidelines of political activism.

"Pretty soon, we came to the realization it is just unrealistic to really continue Tiananmen demonstration on the street of New York City," Li told Slobogin.

Both Li and Chai have been criticized by other dissidents for only occasional high-profile involvement in the democracy movement.

"The media like to always thinking we are student leaders and that's all. But this has been 10 years now. We matured and moved on and have a true self, other than just a stereotype," Chai said.

"Being a political activist is not going to change China, let's just face it. We tried 10 years ago. We had millions of people with us. It didn't work."

Wuer Kaixi adopts a different view. He is unable to shake a sense of guilt for those who died. "I wake up in the middle of the night by a nightmare of the scene of the massacre," he said..

"We were treated as hero, but we really lost this big battle... but I firmly believe the sun of democracy will rise high above my beloved land," Wuer said.

Perhaps the most famous of the four is Wang Dan who was released from prison only last year and forced into exile. "I really lost something. I lost my youth. Most important, I lost a lot of time. I'm still very clear -- my dream is that I can do something, I can really do something to improve the situation of China," Wang told the program.

Who's who
The government
The Activists: Division in the ranks
Chai Ling, Li Lu, Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi
Families still mourn

Interactive Gallery:
A look back

Modern China
Rural democracy
Military might

Interview transcripts
a crackdown defender
a victim's mother
former Communist Party official
Premier Zhu Rongji

From TIME Asia
We remember
Where are they now?
Memories that won't fade

Message Board
Tiananmen Square anniversary

Divide and conquer

Earlier this year, the disparity of agendas with the dissident lobby groups overflowed into a public feud at a time when Beijing was actively thwarting efforts in China to establish the an opposition political party known as the China Democracy Party.

The party has been banned and many who tried to register it have been jailed.

The factions clashed at a U.S. Congressional hearing in Washington in January. Several Democracy Party activists sent out press releases labeling high-profile dissident Wei Jingsheng a "phony" after they were not invited to testify before the hearing.

This action led to a scuffle at the hearing which was broken up by police.

There have also been unsubstantiated allegations that the Chinese government has infiltrated the dissident community in a bid to perpetuate factionalism.

After the January scuffle, Wei said it would be impossible to get complete cooperation because there's a "a small group of people who specialize in starting fights."

The lingering legacy of Tiananmen Square
May 28, 1999
Tiananmen activist turns software entrepreneur
May 6, 1999
China policy is hard to manage, easy to criticize

China News Services
ChinaScape - Chinese Web Index
The complete reference to China/Chinese Related Web Sites
Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C.
Inside China Today
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