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Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 19:23 UK

Tiananmen figures: Student leader

Wu'er Kaixi
Wu'er Kaixi was second on Beijing's Most Wanted list of student leaders

Wu'er Kaixi was a 21-year-old student at Beijing Normal University when he played a leading role in the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

Twenty years later, living in Taiwan, he remains a leading advocate for democracy in China.

His regular blog on Chinese politics attracts several hundred daily readers - 60% of whom are people in China who manage to get around government internet blocks.

He was among a handful of student representatives to attend an unprecedented meeting with then-Premier Li Peng - unprecedented not only because a Chinese leader had bowed to public pressure, but also because Wu'er Kaixi was shown on national television rebuking Mr Li for not having addressed students' demands.

This, says Wu'er Kaixi, helped Chinese people see themselves as equal to their leaders.

If I had known the result would be so bloody, would I have still done the same? The answer is perhaps no

But Wu'er Kaixi has mixed emotions looking back on the events that followed - when hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were killed by Chinese soldiers sent in by the government.

"It was one of the best organised student movements and I'm very proud to have been part of it - even prouder to have been one of the organisers," he said.

"The demands we made - anti-corruption, press freedom, protection of private property rights and free market economy - Chinese people recognised these and they stood behind us."

Former Chinese Premier Li Peng (15 March 1993)
Wu'er Kaixi rebuked Li Peng in person for ignoring the students' demands

But he continued: "If I had known the result would be so bloody, would I have still done the same? The answer is perhaps not.

"There was no way for us at that time to anticipate such a tragic human loss.

"If I could be sent back in time, knowing what we know today, could I have done a better job? Most definitely."

Rapid change

Despite the bloodshed,Wu'er Kaixi strongly believes the students' efforts were not in vain.

TIANANMEN MEMORIES
20 years on: Tiananmen memories

After the Tiananmen massacre, China was internationally isolated, its people no longer believed in the Communist Party and were more sceptical of the government, Wu'er Kaixi says.

The Party realised it needed a new way to legitimise its rule and was forced to undertake changes - allowing free market reforms and protecting property rights.

I don't see how the Chinese Communist Party can run this country as an authoritarian regime for long

Wu'er Kaixi says he is optimistic that he will one day be able to return to China to see his aging parents, whom he has not seen since his 20s when he went into hiding after being listed as one of China's "Most Wanted".

He is convinced that China has no other way to go but towards democracy.

"Things change fast. Look at the direction of China in the last 20 years, it's moving toward citizen awareness. It's inevitable.

"For thousands of years, Chinese people have considered themselves as subjects, not citizens. That has changed, especially after 1989. And that brings me hope for going back," he says.

"If there are one billion citizens there and they consider themselves citizens, I don't see how the Chinese Communist Party can run this country as an authoritarian regime for long."

Wu'er Kaixi was speaking to the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taiwan.



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