A visa issued for an exiled Chinese activist to return home for his father’s funeral has been cancelled hours after it was issued.

Fang Zheng, who participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests as a student, had his legs crushed by a tank when the People’s Liberation Army cleared the demonstrations. Fang and his family arrived in the United States in 2009 and he was granted asylum the following year.

Fang said on Twitter on Monday that he received a call from his sister in mainland China telling him that his 80-year-old father had died after a fall at home in Hefei, Anhui Province. He went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco to apply for visas for him and his daughter, and both were approved on Thursday.

Fang Zheng in Hong Kong in 2012. File Photo: VOA.

However, Fang then received a call from a man who claimed to be from the consulate telling him that the visas had been cancelled, just three hours after he obtained them.

“I was told I cannot use my visa to go back to China. Can I even believe this?” Fang tweeted. “The man – who did not give a name – said in the call that it was the country’s sovereign [right to cancel them.]”

“The most thuggish thing was that they even cancelled my daughter’s visa,” Fang added.

He said the man told him that the visa fees would be returned to his credit card.

In 2012, Fang appeared at the annual candlelight vigil for the Tiananmen Massacre in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. This year’s vigil, on June 4, will mark three decades since the crackdown.

Fang Zheng (in wheelchair) in Hong Kong in 2012. File Photo: Stand News.

The Tiananmen massacre ended months of student-led demonstrations in China as the military was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.

Estimates of the death toll vary, although a member of the Chinese State Council said that at least 10,000 civilians were killed. This estimate appeared in UK Foreign Office files that were declassified in 2017.

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.