Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fang Lizhi: Standing Up For The Individual In China

Individual Rights

Fang Lizhi [1936-2012] at the University Of Arizona, where he taught physics since1992. Six years earlier, in 1986, Fang had said to to students at Tongji University in Shanghai: “Human rights are fundamental privileges that people have from birth, such as the right to think and be educated, the right to marry, and so on. But we Chinese consider those rights dangerous,” 
Photo Credit: University Of Arizona

An article, by Perry Link, in The New York Review of Books looks at the man who changed China,  Fang Lizhi , who died a year ago today at the age of 76. Fang, an astrophysicist and vice-president of the University of Science and Technology of China, was best known as an activist whose liberal ideas inspired the pro-democracy student movement of 1986-87 and, finally, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Link writes of how things were in the 1980s:
In China in the 1980s, the wordrenquan (“human rights”) was extremely “sensitive.” Few dared even to utter it in public, let alone to champion the concept. Now, nearly three decades later, a grassroots movement called weiquan (“supporting rights”) has spread widely, and it seems clear that China’s rulers are helpless to reverse it. Even people at the lowest levels of society demand their rights. No one brought about this dramatic change single-handedly, but arguably no one did more to get it started than Fang Lizhi, the Chinese astrophysicist, activist, and dissident, who died a year ago this week. We were friends for many years; here are eight of my favorite memories of him.
These are worth reading, if only to remeber how one man changed things, not then of course (Fang was expelled from the Communist Party in 1987 and forced to leave China in 1990 after the pro-democracy movement was crushed at Tiananmen Square n 1989), but much later. Fang's courageous actions laid the groundwork for the changes evident in China today. Individual rights is no longer a foreign idea in China.


Youi can read the rest of the article at [NYRB]


  1. I had the great pleasure of meeting Fang Lizhi and his wife in his apartment in Beijing in 1989. A friend of mine who lived in the same building introduced us. Professor Fang was courteous, witty and charming, in addition to being a hero.

    1. You were fortunate to have met him; and yes Prof. Fang is a hero.


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