WASHINGTON (BP)–Twenty years after his legs were crushed by a tank in Tiananmen Square, Fang Zheng had the delight of dancing with his wife at a Capitol Hill ceremony that honored his heroism during the 1989 massacre in Beijing.
“As newcomers, foreigners like us, we particularly begin to appreciate the goodness of America … many of you who have helped me throughout the way, without you, I would not be able to stand here,” Fang said with the translation assistance of Chai Ling, a fellow Tiananmen demonstration leader, at the ceremony in the Capitol Visitor Center.
Fang, 42, was injured on June 4, 1989, when he pushed a friend from the path of an oncoming a tank at a human rights demonstration, only to have his own legs crushed by the tank. Both of his legs were amputated.
Fang, a sprinter who had qualified to represent China in the Olympic Games, was pressured by the Chinese government to declare that his injury was due to only a “road accident.” When he refused, he was denied his college degree and employment. When in 1992 he medaled in discus and javelin events at the All-China Disabled Athletic Games, the government still persecuted him.
In early 2009, however, Fang was granted a visa to come to the United States, where the Ossur Corporation, an orthotics and prosthetics manufacturer, provided artificial legs and the Adventist Rehabilitation Center in Rockville, Md., helped him learn to walk again.
Fang was honored by the ChinaAid human rights organization in an Oct. 7 ceremony at the Capitol Hill Visitor’s Center and attended by other leaders of the Tiananmen Square protest and Congressmen Chris Smith, R.-N.J., Joseph Ahn Cao, R.-La., and Joe Pitts, R.-Pa.
Fang has been standing for 20 years without legs — a celebration of heroism in its own right, said a Zheng colleague, Yang Jianli.
“But when we look at Fang Zheng, we also have to look at ourselves,” Cao said. “Do we have the same courage to speak out against regimes that deprive everyone of the basic rights that we have?”
Fang and his wife Zhu Jin embraced faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior a week after arriving in the United States at a church retreat near San Diego.
“Fang Zheng’s powerful story has inspired many in China who have been repressed and denied their fundamental freedoms of speech and belief,” said ChinaAid’s president, Bob Fu, in a press release. “He has used his story to expose the truth of human rights adversity in China and is a living testimony that change can happen. Fang Zheng firmly believes that the time is coming when all in China will experience true freedom.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Fang slow-danced with his wife for the first time.
Cindy Ortiz is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press. The full ceremony can be viewed at http://english.ntdtv.com/ntdtv_en/ns_na/2009-10-08/791669748331.html.