Year
1989
Month Day
June 11

China issues warrant for Tiananmen dissident sheltering in U.S. embassy

In the wake of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, China issues a warrant for a leading Chinese dissident who had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The diplomatic standoff lasted for a year, and the refusal of the United States to hand the dissident over to Chinese officials was further evidence of American disapproval of China’s crackdown on political protesters.

In April and May 1989, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Beijing to call for greater political democracy in communist China. On June 4, Chinese soldiers and police swarmed into the center of protest activity, Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds and arresting thousands. The Chinese government used this brutal crackdown as a pretext for issuing an arrest warrant for Fang Lizhi, an internationally respected astrophysicist and leading Chinese dissident. Although Fang had not participated in the Tiananmen Square protests, he had been a consistent advocate of greater political democracy and a persistent critic of government policies. In February 1989, more than one hundred Chinese security personnel forcibly prevented Fang from meeting with visiting President George Bush.

In the June arrest warrant, Fang and his wife, Li Shuxian, were charged with “committing crimes of counter-revolutionary propaganda and instigation.” Fang and Li immediately took refuge in the U.S. embassy. Chinese officials demanded that the American government hand over the pair, but the U.S. refused. Almost exactly one year later, Fang and Li were given free passage out of the country and they left the U.S. embassy for the first time since June 1989. The action was part of a wider effort by the Chinese government to repair some of the international damage done to its reputation in the wake of the Tiananmen Square incident. In addition to Fang and Li, hundreds of other political prisoners were also released. Fang and Li traveled to the United States and took up residence. Fang continued his dissident activities against the Chinese government and taught in both America and Great Britain.

The incident indicated that feelings about what had occurred in Tiananmen Square ran high, both in the United States and China. For America, the brutal attack on the protesters repulsed most people and led Congress to pass economic sanctions against the Chinese government. In China, the refusal to hand over Fang and the U.S. criticisms of what the Chinese government considered to be a purely internal matter generated a tremendous amount of resentment. The issue of human rights in China continued to be a major issue in relations between the U.S. and China throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century.

READ MORE: China: A Timeline

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Gov. George Wallace holds a press conference to argue against integration of the state's public schools. Almost 10 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to desegregate schools, Alabama had still not complied. On June 11, 1963, Wallace made national news when he stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama to block African-American students from entering.

University of Alabama desegregated

Facing federalized Alabama National Guard troops, Alabama Governor George Wallace ends his blockade of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and allows two African American students to enroll on June 11, 1963. George Wallace, one of the most controversial politicians in U.S. ...read more

Six-Day War ends

The Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors ends with a United Nations-brokered cease-fire. The outnumbered Israel Defense Forces achieved a swift victory in the brief war, rolling over the Arab coalition and more than doubling the amount of territory under Israel’s ...read more

Henry VIII marries his first wife, Catherine of Aragon

King Henry VIII of England marries Catherine of Aragon, the first of six wives he will have in his lifetime. When Catherine failed to produce a male heir, Henry divorced her against the will of the Roman Catholic Church, thus precipitating the Protestant Reformation in England. ...read more

D-Day landing forces converge

Five days after the D-Day landing, the five Allied landing groups, made up of some 330,000 troops, link up in Normandy to form a single solid front across northwestern France. READ MORE: D-Day: An Interactive  On June 6, 1944, after a year of meticulous planning conducted in ...read more

John Wayne dies

On June 11, 1979, John Wayne, an iconic American film actor famous for starring in countless westerns, dies at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade. The actor was born Marion Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, and moved as a child to Glendale, ...read more

Buddhist immolates himself in protest

Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc publicly burns himself to death in a plea for President Ngo Dinh Diem to show “charity and compassion” to all religions. Diem, a Catholic who had been oppressing the Buddhist majority, remained stubborn despite continued Buddhist protests and ...read more

Russian explorer Izmailov arrives at Yakutat Bay, Alaska

Searching for sea otter pelts and other furs, the Russian explorer Gerasim Grigoriev Izmailov reaches the Alaskan coast, setting his ship in at Yakutat Bay. Although most Americans think of the exploration of the Far West as an affair that began in the East and proceeded ...read more

Hank Williams, Sr., makes his Grand Ole Opry debut

In the tragically short life of country legend Hank Williams, Sr., there were many broken relationships, both personal and professional, that resulted from his self-destructive behavior. One such relationship was with the most important institution in his chosen field: The Grand ...read more

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” released

Then 34-year-old director Steven Spielberg reportedly drew on his own experiences as an unusually imaginative, often-lonely child of divorce for his science-fiction classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which is released on June 11, 1982. For Spielberg, E.T. marked a return to ...read more

Race car at Le Mans crashes into spectators, killing 82

On June 11, 1955, a racing car in Le Mans, France, goes out of control and crashes into stands filled with spectators, killing 82 people. The tragedy in the famous 24-hour race led to a ban on racing in several nations. The Le Mans race, organized by France’s Automobile Club de ...read more

Congress appoints Committee of Five to draft the Declaration of Independence

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress selects Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York to draft a declaration of independence. Knowing Jefferson’s prowess ...read more