8 Apr 2012

Dissident who inspiried Tiananmen protests dies

7:58 am on 8 April 2012

Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi, whose pro-democracy speeches inspired the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, has died.

A leading astrophysicist, Fang Lizhi burst onto China's political scene in the mid 1980s as an eloquent advocate of radical change.

He said of the Chinese Communist party: "Marxism is like a worn dress that must be put aside."

His university fired him, saying his speeches to students incited unrest.

Fang Lizhi openly supported the pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989 but played no public role, the BBC reports.

After the crackdown on Tiananmen by the Chinese authorities, Mr Fang and his wife took refuge in the US embassy for a year before leaving China for good.

The couple feared they would face charges which carried the death penalty.

He died in exile in the United States at the age of 76.