- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

There was barely a dry eye Wednesday when Fang Zheng stood and danced with his wife for the first time as members of Congress and other supporters watched.

Twenty years earlier, Mr. Fang, then a sprinter with Olympic aspirations, was run over by a tank during the Chinese crackdown at Tiananmen Square, losing both legs.

Mr. Fang, now 43, waltzed with his wife of 10 years, Zhu Jin, at the House Visitors Center on Capitol Hill with two high-tech prosthetic limbs he received one month ago.

With one leg amputated below the knee and the other midway up the thigh, wheelchair-user Mr. Fang initially took up the discus and javelin, winning medals in Chinese games for the disabled.

But when he began speaking to reporters about the events of June 4, 1989, the Chinese government refused to let him compete internationally.

“I feel fortunate to be standing here, 20 years after the events,” he said Wednesday. “We have to keep a message of hope. Many Chinese people are still in jail because they spoke about democracy. This is just wrong.”

Republican Reps. Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana, Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania were among those on hand. So was Tiananmen protest leader Chai Ling, who once ranked No. 4 on the Chinese government’s most-wanted list.

In a month when Beijing celebrated the 60th anniversary of its People’s Republic and the Dalai Lama made headlines visiting Washington, Mr. Fang said that the U.S. had sent a strong message to his home country by giving him the chance to stand up again.

“America opened its arms to welcome me. Last week President Hu Jintao said that the Chinese people have stood up,” referring to the famous words of Chairman Mao Zedong on Oct. 1, 1949. “But in fact, the majority of the Chinese people have not. Maybe one day they will, in peace and freedom.”

The Chinese prevented Mr. Fang from visiting Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games, but later decided to give him a passport shortly after he was contacted by a German reporter for a post-Olympics interview.

The Chinese refuse to allow any discussion of the Tiananmen protests, calling reports that hundreds, perhaps thousands of demonstrators died “groundless accusations.”

Ossur Corp., a prominent manufacturer of prosthetic limbs, donated the legs to Mr. Fang, while Medical Center Orthotics and Prosthetics in Washington took care of the training — free of charge. Both organizations actively work with American troops.

In Mr. Fang’s case, “everything went better than expected,” said Mike Corcoran, a prosthetist at Medical Center.

“It is a big challenge to use one limb. Two is incredible, especially in such a short period of time. It is a testimony of his willingness to do this,” Mr. Corcoran said.

Resting on a chair after the press conference, Mr. Fang, who left China with his wife and daughter in March to live in California, said that he plans to start swimming soon. “I can practice many sports now.”

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