Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi dies in US at 76

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ONE of China’s best-known dissidents has died in the United States, where he fled after China’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1989, which culminated in the Tianamen Square massacre.

Fang Lizhi had been an inspiration to radical students throughout the 1980s.

Once China’s leading astrophysicist, Fang and his wife hid in the US embassy for 13 months after the crackdown. In exile, he was a physics professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Fang’s friend and fellow US-based dissident Wang Dan wrote on Facebook and Twitter that Fang’s death, at the age of 76, yesterday in Tucson was sudden and that he learned of it from Fang’s wife, Li Shuxian.

“I hope the Chinese people will never forget that there was once a thinker like Fang Lizhi. He inspired the ’89 generation, and awoke in the people their yearning for human rights and democracy,” Wang wrote. “One day, China will be proud to once have had Fang Lizhi.

“Fang is my spiritual teacher, his death is a major blow to me.”

The son of a postal clerk in Hangzhou, Fang went to Beijing University in 1952, aged 16, to study theoretical and nuclear physics. He became one of China’s pioneering researchers in laser theory.