The Radical, Lonely, Suddenly Shocking Life of Wang Juntao

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After half a century of resisting the Chinese Communist Party, a dissident confronts murder and espionage in Queens. jcbeam reports on the radical, lonely, suddenly shocking life of Wang Juntao

A few days a week, Wang Juntao, a primary organizer of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and one of the world’s most renowned Chinese dissidents, travels from his home in New Jersey to his office in Flushing. He drives to the train station with the cheapest parking, then takes the path to the LIRR to Main Street, emerging to the whiff of fish and cigarettes and the roar of planes making their final approach to La Guardia.

Then, incredibly, Juntao’s prediction came true. In November, after ten residents of an apartment building in Ürümqi died in a fire, the Chinese internet lit up with accusations that Xi’s stringent “zero COVID” policies had made it hard for them to escape the blaze. Protesters filled streets across the country, from the industrial city of Zhengzhou to the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing. Some called for Xi to step down.

It was a thrilling time to be a young democrat in China. After Deng Xiaoping began introducing market reforms in 1978, glimmers of liberal experimentation appeared: Villages began holding elections, and newspapers started investigating corruption. Peking University was the center of this political ferment, and after enrolling there to study nuclear physics, Juntao quickly established himself as a campus leader.

Juntao tells his account of the atrocity sparingly, too. “I’m sick of talking about the past before I get to the future,” he said. “I have to focus on what I’m doing now.” That night in Beijing, he was waiting to meet a friend at a hotel when word came of a shooting, and he asked his driver to take him to the scene. He saw wrecked cars and a protester who’d been shot dead.

In 1994, after relentless petitioning by his then-wife, Hou Xiaotian, and international pressure on China to improve its human-rights record in exchange for trade privileges, Juntao was let out of prison early to seek medical treatment in the U.S. He immediately took a flight to New York and was so excited to begin his new life that he didn’t sleep for 24 hours.At Columbia, Jim found that the celebrity of his Tiananmen activism afforded him no great status.

Jim remained deeply opposed to the Communists. But his true calling had always been the law, not politics. He started a legal practice in Flushing on a shoestring budget and soon developed a reputation as a rigorous attorney specializing in immigration, asylum, and sensitive “Red Notice” cases protecting clients from being extradited to China. But he was a bad businessman, hiring friends and family and taking on too many cases for free.

 

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jcbeam Wish I could read it, but my hard copy subscription is missing pages 22-29. On the other side of page 13 is page 6. Again. Etc. Something screwy at the printer folks.

jcbeam Lonely is very complicated issue which someone should avoid

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