Fang Lizhi, China’s most prominent dissident, said Tuesday that he will continue to work for progress in his homeland as he returns to an academic life in Britain.
Fang and his wife, Li Shuxian, arrived in London after Chinese authorities Monday allowed them to leave their yearlong refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
The couple had been in the embassy since shortly after the June 3-4, 1989, military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing, in which hundreds and perhaps thousands of people were killed.
“As citizens of China, we hope to do whatever we can in the future to help China’s continuing progress and development,” Fang said in a statement issued Tuesday through the Royal Society in London. He did not meet with journalists.
The society, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious scientific organizations, invited the 54-year-old astrophysicist to Britain. Fang will be a senior visiting fellow at Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy.
A Foreign Office official who met Fang and Li when they landed at Upper Heyford, a U.S. air base 60 miles west of London, said they were “tired but cheerful.”
Fang’s statement said he and his wife were looking forward to a few days of quiet to “rest and recuperate, and to have some medical tests.”
U.S. media reports said Fang recently suffered an apparent mild heart attack but refused to be treated in a Chinese hospital.
“The past year has been difficult for us, but we have received strong support from the international scientific community and friends everywhere,” the statement said.
“My wife and I would also like to express our heartfelt appreciation to President Bush, Ambassador (James) Lilley, and the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.”
China’s decision to allow the couple to leave eliminated a major obstacle to better relations with the West.
Fang and Li, a physicist, have two sons. Fang Ke is a student at Wayne State University in Detroit and the other, Fang Zhe, a student at Beijing University.
“We understand that our son in China will be soon be able to study abroad, and we are naturally looking forward to a family reunion,” Fang said in the statement.