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Man crushed by tank in Tiananmen massacre to testify in H.K.

HONG KONG, June 1 Kyodo

Fang Zheng, a protester who survived being run over by a tank during the democracy protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, said Friday he will attend the June 4 candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to testify to the bloody massacre he witnessed.

"From my own experiences, I know the June 4 massacre really did happen," Fang, who walks with a pair of artificial legs and a crutch, told the press after arriving from the United States on Thursday. "At Liubukou (an intersection west of Tiananmen Square), we witnessed that tanks were charging towards students from the back."

He said he was among a group of college students retreating from the square at about 6 a.m. on June 4, 1989 in a peaceful and orderly manner when suddenly they were sprayed with poisonous gas and then crushed by tanks speeding up from behind and leaving massive casualties.

"Some of us were squashed, some of the dead bodies were dismembered and some were crippled like me. These are all facts, these are the most representative and truthful pictures in the June 4 repression that we must not forget," Fang said.

Photographs posted online have shown a man who Fang claims to be himself lying on the side of a road in the early morning of June 4 with his legs crushed.

"The next thing I remember was that I was circled by a ring of tall people, as I was lying on the ground. I knew at that moment I lost my legs. I could see the bones and flesh," he said.

Doctors at the hospital that treated Fang told him that some of them inhaled chlorine gas, which he said was for military use and sickened him for a week.

"We want the truth, we want compensation and all the people responsible for giving and taking the orders (to crack down) be held accountable," Fang said.

Apart from losing his legs, Fang said for 20 years he suffered from ongoing repression by the authorities, who demanded he rebut his account of being run over by a tank; detained and constantly harassed him; confiscated his belongings; and banned him from taking part in sports competitions for disabled athletes.

In 2009, Fang moved to the United States with his wife and daughter.

Fang's plan to come to Hong Kong was kept low profile to avoid the risk of deportation that other prominent student leaders in the protest had faced when they tried to enter Hong Kong.

Wang Dan, one of the leading organizers of the Tiananmen protest who was barred from returning to China after he was exiled in 1998, has failed in several attempts to enter Hong Kong.

"The Chinese government has applied the same means in persecuting people who are defending their rights. Understanding what happened in the June 4 crackdown is vital to understanding the current Chinese authorities," Fang said.

Armed soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square late on June 3 to dispel the weeks-long protest, leaving hundreds, some estimates say thousands, of protesters dead.

China has never publicly addressed the massacre, which has become a taboo and a sensitive topic barred from open discussions on China's Internet.

Hong Kong is the only Chinese city that allows holding of the annual memorial.

"Year after year, every lit candle at the park gives strength to people like us to pierce through the dark. (It is) a source of light that shines on our conscience,'' Fang said, adding that he will attend the candlelight vigil Monday to commemorate the countless victims of the crackdown and tell his stories before leaving on June 6.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jun 4, 2012
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