One of the dissidents responsible for splashing ink on a portrait of Mao Zedong during the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations passed away last month in the US, his widow said Monday.

Yu Zhijian, 53, died on March 30 of complications related to diabetes, his widow Xian Gui’e said by phone from their home in Indiana state.

Yu Zhijian
(L-R) Yu Zhijian, Yu Dongyue and Lu Decheng participate in The Laogai Research Foundation news conference the “Three Heroes of Tiananmen,” who are reunited for the first time since their release from prison. Photo: Tim Sloane/AFP.

“Yu Zhijian never regretted what he did in 1989 but he would have liked to apologise to Mao’s family for throwing eggs on the portrait,” she told AFP.

The Tiananmen pro-democracy movement ended in bloodshed on June 4, 1989 when tanks crushed the demonstrations, killing hundreds of protesters.

Yu served nearly 12 years in prison for throwing eggs filled with ink onto the portrait of the Communist leader, whose image still dominates the enormous square in Beijing.

Yu was sentenced to life imprisonment after the brutal crackdown and was eventually released for good behaviour in September 2000.

He and his accomplice Yu Dongyue, released in 2006 after 17 years in prison, fled China in 2009 after obtaining political asylum in the US.

A third man also involved in the ink-throwing incident, Lu Decheng, fled overseas in 2004 after his release in 1998.

Xian said that her husband obtained US citizenship and worked as a caregiver.

They never attempted to return to China, she added.

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