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Fang Lizhi
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    (February 12, 1936-April 6, 2012)
    Born in Beijing, China
    Chinese astrophysicist and political dissident
    Expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for organizing student protests (1987)
    Following the Tienamen Square protests and subsequent crackdown, took refuge in the US embassy for over a year (June 5, 1989-June 25, 1990)
    Allowed to leave China, ostensibly on medical grounds
    Became a Professor of Physics at the University of Arizona
    Wrote 'Bringing Down the Wall: Writings on Science, Culture and Democracy in China' (1991)
    Received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (1989)
    While stuck at the US embassy, he complained, 'I am an astrophysicist and yet I cannot see the sky.' (An inconvenience to be sure, but considering what was happening to other dissidents -- jail, execution, getting run over by tanks -- he was getting off easy.)
    He was allowed to leave China essentially as the result of bribery: the Japanese government indicated it would resume making loans to China if 'the Fang Lizhi problem' were solved.
    After arriving in the West, he ticked off his former host, the American ambassador to China, by accusing the US of holding China to a lower human rights standard over its treatment of political dissidents than it applied to the Soviet Union.
    He was admitted to Beijing University at age 16.
    While at the school, he took over a meeting of the Young Communists League to encourage students to think independently instead of accepting party dogma.
    During the Cultural Revolution of the 60s, he was imprisoned for a year for criticizing science education in China.
    He got into trouble in the early 70s by introducing the Big Bang theory into Chinese physics. (The Big Bang was considered taboo for violating Friederich Engels's declaration that the universe is infinite in time and space.)
    He was one of the main inspirations for the pro-democracy movement among students in the late 80s.

Credit: C. Fishel

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