Yang Jianli

Chinese pro-democracy activist

Yang Jianli is a Chinese pro-democracy activist and founder of the Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a grassroots movement dedicated to advancing a peaceful transition to democracy. Jianli was born in Shandong Province in northern China and graduated from Beijing Normal University. Though regarded as a member with high potential in the Chinese Communist Party, Jianli left China to study mathematics at U.C. Berkeley after witnessing widespread corruption within the Communist Party. In 1989, he supported the Chinese students protesting for democracy in Tiananmen Square, witnessing the massacre of hundreds of civilians at the hands of the Chinese Army. Jianli was able to escape and returned to the United States, where he completed a doctorate in political economy at Harvard University. The Chinese government blacklisted him for his participation in the protests. In 2002, Jianli returned to China to investigate labor unrest in the north and was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for “spying.” He was freed in 2007. After his release, Jianli also formed the Foundation for China in the 21st Century, created the Interethnic and Interfaith Leadership Conferences, founded China E-Weekly (also known as Yibao magazine), and is the co-author of “A Constitution for a Democratic China.” His commentary has appeared in media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy.

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