The 100-year-old exiled former Beijing top man in Hong Kong, Xu Jiatun, is in critical condition in a Los Angeles hospital, suffering from heart and kidney failure, according to reports.

The New York-based news site Ming Jing Post reported that a family member of Xu had confirmed his condition. An assistant of Xu told Apple Daily that his condition had worsened over the past few days and was “not optimistic”.

Xu was the head of the official Xinhua agency in Hong Kong – China’s de-facto embassy in colonial Hong Kong and now replaced by the China Liaison Office – between 1983 and 1990.

Xu Jiatun in 2015. File Photo: Apple Daily.

He allowed pro-Beijing institutions in Hong Kong to support the 1989 student movements in China. Notably the mouthpiece Wen Wei Po published an editorial with only four characters meaning “deep sorrow” in protest of the declaration of martial law in Beijing, ahead of the June 4 crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

Xu fled to the US in May 1990, with the help of former Wen Wei Po chief editor Jin Yaoru, as he feared that the Chinese government might take him away. He was expelled from the Communist Party in 1991 and banned from returning to China.

Xu’s family suggested to China that he might be allowed to return after his wife died in Nanjing in 2004, but the request was not allowed as China replied “it was not the right time for now”.

The assembly Hong Kong after Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: 1989年的傳真.


In June 2014, he was interviewed by RTHK in Chino Hills, Los Angeles, and asked China to allow him to return: “The condition is almost mature, but I am too old… not sure if I can wait until that time.”

“I was born in China, I am a Chinese… after all, falling leaves must return to their roots,” he said.

But he said that the condition to vindicate the student movements of 1989 was not mature yet.

He also expressed his opposition to the Occupy Central plan – which had yet to happen – saying that it would “destroy Hong Kong.”

Celebrating his 99th birthday in the US last year, Xu again expressed his desire to go back to the mainland, saying that he would invite family and friends to his hometown to enjoy its famous crab dish.


Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.