Video still of Xu Wenli

Xu Wenli

Brown University

Xu Wenli is an author and activist, having served as leader of the China Democracy Party. At the time of filming, he was a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. One of China’s most recognized pro-democracy advocates, Mr. Xu spent 16 years in prison for his activities as a dissident. He was a leader in the Democracy Wall movement from 1979 to 1981, edited the samizdat-style journal April Fifth Forum, and played a major role in establishing the Beijing-Tianjin branch of the China Democracy Party. Xu’s health suffered while in prison. In reaction to his declining condition, international human rights groups, the U.S. ambassador to China, and Western officials called for his release. The Chinese government finally relented and released him on medical grounds in December 2002. He and his wife left China immediately for the United States to be reunited with their daughter, Xu Jin, who was living in Rhode Island. Xu has published a number of books, including most recently A Theoretical Inquiry into the Rational Structure of Human Society (Hong Kong: Greenfield Book Store, December 2008, available in Chinese and English), which recounts his experiences in jail and his thoughts on democracy.

Wenli’s videos are used in this Choices Program curriculum unit:
China on the World Stage: Weighing the U.S. Response

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