Wei Jingsheng (b. 1950) didn't start his life out as the most likely candidate for freedom. Born in China his parents were high ranking officials in the Chinese Communist Party. Wei (family name; Chinese list their family name first and their given name last) knew Chairman Mao fairly well. When he was a teenage, young Wei joined the Red Guard, a group designed for young Chinese to promote the ideals of Communism. Wei and his comrades wreaked havoc on the country. They beat up dissents, destroyed precious ancient Chinese art and writings, and tried to rid the country of any outside Western influences. Just as many Red Guard members, Wei ventured into the country side to see how the Red Army and Communist Revolution in China had "helped" the peasants there. Like so many, he realized that the peasants were not any better off. Disillusioned he realized that Communism was not the way. Also his parents were discredited and lost their Communist party status.
Wei left the Red Guard and instead took a career as an electrician at the Beijing Zoo in 1978. He met and became engaged to a young Tibetan woman who explained to him the suffering her family endured after Mao took over Tibet. Mao had died in 1976 and as a result young people were pushing for more freedoms within the country. A Democracy wall was constructed in Beijing allowing people to express their feelings. Wei posted a poster, Fifth Modernization. The poster was in response to the new Communist Party leader's paper called Four Modernizations which emphasized China's need for autonomy and modernization in areas of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology. Wei said that in order for China to excel freedom and better yet democracy were what China truly needed to make itself modern. Democracy is the Fifth Modernization.
At that time, China was involved in the Vietnam War. Wei had put his name and address on the poster, which rallied a small group of freedom fighters. Once the Chinese removed themselves from being involved in the Vietnam War, Wei knew that he would soon be dealt with. He broke up with his girlfriend to protect her. In 1979, he was arrested and sent to several prisons and work camps.
In 1993 when Beijing was making its bid for the 2000 Olympic Games, the Chinese Communist Party announced that they would release Wei. After the bid was lost to the Australians, Wei was again arrested until 1997 when he was allowed to be released to the Americans prompted by internal pressure and then President Bill Clinton.
Wei still continues to write and speak out against the civil right's abuses in China while living in the United States. Because of Wei's continued determination and making it his life's mission to bring change to China in the form of democracy and freedom, I honor Wei as my peace activist of the week.
Side note: I discovered a Tienanmen Square Protester is a professor at the University Hubby goes to. Hubby is encouraging me to contact him to set up an interview. I think the man will politely tell this house wife to bugger off, but maybe I'll get gutsy enough to see if he's written a book or something and ask for an autograph at least. I know that he gives lectures. I really must go see if he has a website or something. It's getting to be a very small world.