In April 1989, he and a group of classmates started a students’ self-governing committee.
Arrested in June 1989 for taking part in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, he was imprisoned in Qincheng prison in Beijing for more than half a year, but was then discharged and sent back to his old school in Shaanxi, where he graduated in 1992.
From his graduation until 1998, Zhao worked as a teacher at the Shaanxi Hanzhong Nuclear Industry Factory 813.
Petition to the 15th National Congress
In August 1997, he petitioned the 15th National Congress of the Communist Party of China to introduce political reforms with his essay "Reform the political system and take the path to democratisation". In defense of fellow workers against corruption and substandard working conditions, he tried to stand for election as a factory representative to the National People Congress, on a platform critical of the All China Federation of Trade Unions. He was detained on 25 March 1998, and was tried on 6 September 1998 and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
Petition to the 16th National Congress
In November 2002, he was responsible for drafting the Open letter to the Sixteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China and collecting 192 signatures to support his demands for democracy. Zhao was charged with "attempted subversion of state power" and tried behind closed doors at the Xian People's Court on 10 July 2003. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for his crimes.
HRIC president Liu Qing denounced the trial for being "just another form of intimidation through an unfair legal process. It is especially objectionable that a trial over an open letter was held in secret on the pretext of protecting state secrets".
In December 2005, he refused to participate in a flag-raising ceremony and refused to sing the national anthem, and was put into solitary confinement for 40 days. On 18 February 2006, he was again punished with solitary confinement for 3 months for refusing to take part in military drills and for receiving Falun Gong members.
He remains in prison and is on Amnesty International's watch list.
- "Prisoners in P. R. China (Chinese)". Laogai.org. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- "Labor Activists Imprisoned in China". National Labor Committee. 28 February 2000.
- "Appeal for release of Zhao Changqing". Just Response. 3 September 2003.
- "Prisoners in P. R. China (Chinese)". Laogai.org. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2006.