Interview with Tao Jun, Student Leader of Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement

June 2, 2007 Updated: June 2, 2007

CHINA—The commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Democratic Movement (June 4th) is approaching. Tao Jun, a student leader who studied at Anhui University at the time, said the scene of the calamity that appalled the whole world is still vivid in his mind. Being a member of the movement, he is listed as “June 4th elements” by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). During the last 18 years, he has been monitored, put under house arrest, sent to jail, lost four jobs due to CCP official's pressure on his employers and experienced family breakup. In spite of this, he said he would never give up.

Eighteen Years Ago

Eighteen years ago, the students' movement in Beijing was like a raging fire. The calls for “anti-corruption” and “democracy” grew louder and louder. Students in other places gathered in Beijing to support and Tiananmen Square was crowded with people. Tao Jun, the director of autonomy federation of universities in Anhui, went to Beijing with 4,000 yuan (approximately US$483) he collected from Hefei City.

On May 28, 1989, students held a big parade in Beijing. About 20,000 to 30,000 students went to Beijing to support from Anhui Province alone. More than one million students gathered in Tiananmen Square and many other Beijing citizens joined in as well.

After the massacre had started on the night of June 3, Tao Jun, who had gone back to Hefei, was shocked when he saw pictures of the slaughter. Some students' legs were broken and some students' lower bodies were crushed by the tanks. In Hefei, students' grief and indignation reached the highest point. From June 4 to June 8, they held a parade with pictures of the victims and the injured and shouted with wreaths and elegiac laments.

Two months later, Tao was arrested. He was expelled from the university and the Communist Youth League.

Three Years Imprisonment for Democratic Website

The fire for freedom and democracy is always burning within Tao's heart. In 2000 he established Maihua Net during his spare time to make public his articles, poems, and commentaries. However, one of his articles entitled, “Who Will Supervise the General Secretary,” touched the sensitive nerve of the authorities. In April 2001, he was put in a criminal detention in Shekou. Not long after being placed in detention that the authorities sentenced him to three years imprisonment for “crimes of inciting subversion of the state power and of overthrowing the socialist system.” Consequently, he spent three miserable years in Futian Detention Center and Shaoguan Prison.

For four months while he was in Futian Detention Center, he was forced to do heavy labor work making plastic leaves and flowers for 12 hours a day. He said, “We made plastic leaves and flowers for a New York company. The price was two dollars. We started work from 7:00 a.m. right up to 11:00 p.m. everyday without a break at noon. The skin on our fingers ulcerated and the wounds became infected due to the poisonous glue we were using. Some of us developed sores and pus all over the body.”

In Shaoguan Prison, his work was to plant hair on plastic scalps. He filled rice into the plastic scalps and planted hair on them. The space between each hair had to be the same and evenly spaced with the required number of hairs. At the beginning the requirement was to make three scalps per day, and then the number grew to four per day. Tao and other workers stared at the scalps all day without taking a break. As a result, they suffered from retinal detachment. The temperature in the workshops during the summer was more than 38 degrees. It was like a sauna.

What scared Tao the most was tuberculosis because it was very common in the prison. About half of the prisoners were infected. Everyone was afraid of the disease, so the police had to hide the facts. He once witnessed a prisoner vomiting blood and there were blood clots all over the ground. The prisoner was then sent to the prison hospital. Many prisoners died from tuberculosis every year.

The loss of personal freedom that Tao experienced was unforgettable. Whenever he sees plastic flowers or plastic Christmas trees in the market, he feels sad because he knows they were made by prisoners – the products of slavery.

Family Breakup

Tao married his girlfriend in 1994 and they had a son. Since he was talented in the field of the internet, he became a company's general manager in northwestern China. He bought a house and life was stable then. However, after he was arrested for establishing Maihua Net, he lost everything as well as his family life.

What hurt the most and is unforgettable to Tao was the fact that on the same day the court sentenced him to prison, his wife asked for a divorce and changed his son's last name. He went into despair and almost collapsed. He found it very hard to let his son go. The scene of his arrest and the loss of his child in 2001 are deeply imprinted in his mind, which probably will not be erased for the rest of his life.

When he recalls the loss of his family, he is choked with sobs, “Now we are in different places. My son is in Zhejinag Province. The child's mother is in Sichuan, and I am in Guangdong.”

“I Won't be Beaten Down”

Tao left the jail in 2004 and he continued to write while working. His works include political commentaries, poems and thesis about democracy, freedom and human rights, many of which has been published on the internet and widely spread on BBS. In 2006, Tao initiated “First Tao Jun Chinese Democrat Award” and devoted himself into right protection activities.

Recently Tao lost his job for the fourth time. He said he has very strong survival skills and working capabilities. In the last 18 years, he has experienced house arrest, imprisonment, family breakup, and several job losses because of the communist regime's pressure. It is not exaggerating to say that wherever he goes, the police follow him. However, Tao told journalist, “I am still strong, I am still young, like 18 years ago, and I am still a man.”

“Now, hidden dangers are all over the county; people are furious, the regime is forcing the people to rebel,” he shared.

Tao said that 18 years ago, the regime told Chinese people, “Nobody died on Tiananmen Square.” Now the pro-communist leader in Hong Kong, Ma Lik (note), repeated the lie again.

Eighteen years ago, only students on Tiananmen Square shouted the slogan “End the Communist Ruling”, but today quit the Chinese Communist Party Campaign has spread to all over the country. “It is time for the end of the communist dictatorship,” Tao says.

At the end of the interview, Tao said, “In the past 18 years, the regime exhausted its efforts to cover up its crime with the state power, and it wants to continue to cover up, but its date is coming to an end; we can hear the steps. Tiananmen Square Massacre and all the other crimes committed by the regime must be settled. All innocent people will regain their freedom; the heroes of the Tiananmen Square Massacre will rest in peace.”

Note: Chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), a pro-Beijing political party in Hong Kong