Yu Dongyue (Chinese: 喻东岳; Hanyu Pinyin: Yù Dōngyuè) is a former Chinese journalist imprisoned for almost 17 years in China, for throwing paint-filled eggs onto the large portrait of Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Gate in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Role in Tiananmen Square protests
Yu Dongyue was formerly a fine arts editor with Liuyang News in Hunan. In May 1989, he went by train to Beijing with two other men, Yu Zhijian (Chinese: 余志坚), a school teacher, and Lu Decheng (Chinese: 鲁德成), a truck mechanic. They planned to join the ongoing demonstrations calling for democracy in China. They decided to make a disturbance that would readily be captured by news media then reporting on events in Tiananmen Square. Yu Dongyue, a graduate of the Department of Art at Xiangtan Teachers College, Hunan, was 21 years old at the time.
On May 23, the three men threw eggs that had been emptied and refilled with red, blue and yellow paint at the large portrait of Mao Zedong displayed prominently near Tiananmen Square. Splatters of paint landed on the face and shirt of the People's Republic of China's founding leader. According to news reports, other demonstrators seized the three men and turned them over to police.
The three men were arrested and charged with "counterrevolutionary sabotage, propaganda and incitement." Trials were soon held, and in August, 1989, they were all sentenced to long prison terms. Yu Zhijian was sentenced to life in prison, Yu Dongyue to 20 years and Lu Decheng to 16 years. These were said to be among the harshest prison sentences meted out to demonstrators arrested during the 1989 protests.
All three men were held at Lingling Prison in Dong'an county, Hunan, one of China's many "Labor Camps." During their time at this prison, news reports appeared saying that the three men had been treated brutally after making "reactionary statements." Lu Decheng was freed in 1999 after 10 years. Yu Zhijian was freed in 2000 after 11 years.
Yu Dongyue was later transferred to Chishan Prison in Yuanjiang city, Hunan, formerly known as Provincial No. 1 Prison and another of the "Labor Camps." After their release, Lu Decheng and Yu Zhijian reported that Yu Dongyue appeared injured and mentally disturbed. They repeatedly petitioned for his release on medical grounds. Reportedly, Yu Dongyue was uncooperative in the views of prison officials. There have been several reports that he was tortured and held for at least two years in solitary confinement.
In 2001 Yu Dongyue's sentence was reduced by two years, and in 2005 it was reduced by another 15 months. Scheduled for release on February 26, 2006, he was freed four days earlier. According to statements around the time of his release from his younger brother, Yu Xiyue, while in prison Yu Dongyue appeared deranged and no longer recognized members of his family or his former friends.
Yu Dongyue was not forgotten while in prison. In 2005 the Wei Jingsheng Foundation (established by Democracy Wall activist Wei Jingsheng) awarded Yu Dongyue one of its three prizes of the year for promotion of democracy in China.
Political asylum in the United States
- Congressional-Executive Commission on China Political Prisoner Database, records 2004-02467, 2004-03896 & 2004-02106.
- Huang, Ciping (2005-12-05). "Prize Dedication to YU Dongyue, WU Yilong, and CHEN Xi as Awardees of the Second Annual "Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize" by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation". Wei Jingsheng Foundation.
- Mao portrait saboteurs Yu Dongyue and Yu Zhijian granted asylum in America, The Times, May 23, 2009
- RSF (February 23, 2006). Journalist who was driven mad in prison freed after 16 years. International Freedom of Expression Exchange.
- Jim Yardley (February 23, 2006). Man Freed after Years in Jail for Mao Insult. New York Times.
- Nicholas D. Kristof (May 31, 1992). China is Accused of Torturing 3 who Defaced Mao Portrait. New York Times.
- Wei Jingsheng Foundation News (December 5, 2005). Living and Sacrifice: Prize Dedication to Yu Dongyue, Wu Yilong and Chen Xi. Wei Jingsheng Foundation.
- Paul Mooney (June 4, 2005). Stain that Remains. South China Morning Post.
- Lillian Cheung and Luisetta Mudie, tr. (June 16, 2005). Mao Portrait Protester Raises Fears for Jailed Fellows. Radio Free Asia. This reference shows the defaced portrait of Mao Zedong from May, 1989.
- RSF (December 2, 2004). Journalist Yu Dongyue Reportedly Loses his Mind after Being Tortured. Reporters Without Borders.
- Laogai Handbook (2004). Hunan Province. Laogai Research Foundation.
- Dialogue (Summer 2005). Sentence Reduction for Yu Dongyue. Dui Hua Foundation.
- Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Editors and Novelists (December 2004). Yu Dongyue. PEN Canada.
- Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Editors and Novelists (November 2004). Writers in Prison (China): Yu Dongyue. PEN China.