top of page

VSSDM “June 4th” 35th Anniversary Symposium Former Reporter Exposes Details of Yan Jiaqi’s Harrowing Escape to Hong Kong

Updated: Apr 4

(From Vancouver) The year 2024 marks the 35th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, as well as the 5th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement. To mark these dates, the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM) organized a series of commemorative events, with an inaugural symposium held last Saturday, Freedom to Read in New Hong Kong. One of the featured speakers, noted director and media personnel, Connie Lo Yan-Wai, revealed the secret harrowing tale of Zhao Ziyang close adviser Yan Jiaqi’s dramatic escape to Hong Kong. Other speakers include Mak Hoi-Wah, former vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China (Hong Kong Alliance), long-time media personnel Lo Yan-Wai, and former chairman of the University of Hong Kong Student Union Billy Fung. The forum was moderated by VSSDM president Mabel Tung.

Mak Hoi-Wah has been a long-time observer of democratic movements in both China and Hong Kong, and he gave an overview of the events of the 1989 student movement and the June 4th massacre at Tiananmen Square, as well as reactions from Hong Kongers at the time. He focused on the formation of the Hong Kong Alliance in the wake of the June 4th massacre, as well as its tireless and significant efforts to promote democracy in China, including thirty consecutive years of holding commemorative events for the June 4th incident, Operation Yellow Bird, which had assisted over 600 democracy advocates in their escape from China, assistance to the Tiananmen mothers, and augmenting communication and coordination between Chinese and overseas democratic organizations.

According to Mak, the greatest tragedy is that after the anti-extradition movements, the Hong Kong Alliance became the de-facto target of the Hong Kong government, with seven board members being ludicrously accused of being “agents of foreign powers”, and former Hong Kong Alliance chair and vice-chair Lee Cheuk-Yan, Albert Ho Chun-Yan, and Chow Hang-Tung being prosecuted for the crime of subversion of state power, and subsequently incarcerated for three years, with anticipated prison sentences of up to ten years.

However, the flames of righteousness have not been completely extinguished. Mak Hoi-Wah details that in order to preserve the precious history of the Hong Kong Alliance, there was a crowd-funding effort in 2021 to inaugurate the “Museum for the Memories of June 4th and Human Rights” – – in order to keep these memories alive. He adds that the Hong Kong diaspora all over the world would never give up the fight, and hopes that they would persists to the last breath this struggle between “Remembering and Forgetting.”

Experienced media personnel Lo Yan-Wai shares her experience in the production of a June 4th documentary. In 1994, as feature reporter and anchor for News and Public Affairs Department of Asia Television, she hosted the June 4th documentary “A Chasm in History” for their current affairs programme, with previously unreleased footages from Spanish television, following the student protestors as they were leaving Tiananmen Square the morning after the carnage. Management of Asia Television Limited intervened to attempt to suppress the footage, which led to the resulting resignation of Public Affairs Department director Li Yuk-Lin, with director of the news department, editing chief, reporting chief, a total of six individuals resigning in solidarity. This has been referred to as the “Asia Television Six” incident.

Lo Yan-Wai recalls this incident with great sadness and regret as, with the passage of time, some of the same six righteous individuals who fought so valiantly for press freedom would later turn their backs on their earlier convictions and fall into the embrace of the pro-establishment camp, producing a large number of fake news into the narrative. During the anti-extradition movement, they broadcast a great deal of negative press on those involved in the struggle, as well as statements that have no basis in history.

At the time, Lo Yan-Wai interviewed a great number of those active during the June 4th incident, including FANG Zheng, who, on his way back to the campus in Haidian after leaving the Tian'anmun Square, had his two legs crushed by the tanks while trying to rescue his female classmates in Liubukou. Infuriatingly, the female student whom he rescued refused to acknowledge his role in her rescue. As a witness to the June 4th massacre, Feng Zhang no longer had a place to set foot on in Chinese society, and only managed to escape to freedom after much hardship, ending up wandering the world, acting as a reminder for us not to forget this travesty. Feng Zhang had once travelled to Hong Kong and attended a June 4th candlelight vigil.

She also mentions two interview subjects that deserve our respect, the first being Liu Binyan, the world-renowned reporter active in the 1980’s.

In 1956, Liu Binyan released “Internal Information of Our Newspaper”, “On the Bridge Construction Site”, and in the subsequent year, “Shanghai in Meditation”, which led to his being labelled a “rightist”, censured and targeted for struggle, exiled to rural areas for re-education, and only redeeming his good name after 22 years. His reportage in People’s Literature, “Between Human and Monsters” and “The Second Loyalty” severely criticized societal inequalities, explored what it was to be “patriotic”, which led to resounding responses. In May of 2004, when Lo Yan-Wai was filming the “Sunday Dossier” episode, “Leaving Home for 15 Years”, travelled to the United States to interview Liu Binyan; ravaged by rectal cancer and liver cancer, Liu never lost his will to fight, and used his remaining energies to cut out newspaper articles and write new pieces, proclaiming to be doing “what he should be doing”. A person of such high moral integrity should be a model for all those involved in media.

The other individual Lo mentions is 1989 China Chief Secretary Zhao Ziyang’s close advisor Yan Jiaqi. After the June 4th suppression, he and his wife Gao Gao travelled first to Guangzhou, and was then relocated to a remote island in the Daya Bay area, awaiting rescue. At an appropriate time, he and his party, a total of three, were moved into Hong Kong with a speedboat. Yan Jiaqi wrote the essay, “Recollecting the Escape from China after June 4th”, confessing that he did not know who was responsible for taking him from the island to Hong Kong. Even though this move had the tacit approval of the colonial government, he was not able to be seen publicly. After four days in Hong Kong, the June 22nd, 1989 issue of Ming Pao had the feature article carrying the headline, “Yang Li the Major Proponent of Executing Yan Jiaqi”, which led to the British-Hong Kong government to be on the highest alert, gave Yan’s family three new identities, and put them on a plane. The French government lent a helping hand and dispatched its consulate staff “Fong Man-Sum”, who could take the major credit of taking the family through many obstacles. According to Lo Yan-Wai, she only discovered years later that a good friend risked great danger in crossing the border and was instrumental in rescuing Yan Jiaqi. He indicated that those who really do concrete things do not speak of it themselves.

After speaking about June 4th, Lo Yan-Wai uses three independent bookstores and one coffee shop as examples, to highlight how Hong Kongers are using different ways to protest since the anti-extradition movement.

Former University of Hong Kong Student Union president Billy Fung, since participating in the 2012 anti-National education incident, devoted himself full time to Hong Kong’s student movement, is now enrolled in the Master programme in the University of British Columbia’s Library and Information Studies programme, as well as a member of the editorial board of Flow HK magazine. He speaks about how Hong Kong libraries are systematically removing from their stacks sensitive books and literature. He says that according to one research, since 1997, Hong Kong Public Library has 3000 political books that are banned books. According to his own research, he has discovered about 87 volumes that have disappeared from Hong Kong’s public libraries, and the fact that these books have been banned is not because of political reasons, but the fact that the authors are in Hong Kong’s Democratic Party.

In addition, Billy Fung introduces Flow HK magazine, a periodical targeted at overseas Hong Kongers, and its editorial process, especially mentioning that they have come up with many ways to overcome the Hong Kong government’s strict censorship, to safely deliver the magazine to the hands of Hong Kongers.

Before the end of the event, a video interview with Chow Hang-Tung was shown. Carrying the burden of 30 years of struggle by Hong Kongers, Chow Hang-Tung has become a symbol for the heroic and indomitable spirit of the people of Hong Kong.


bottom of page