Wang Juntao was born in Gong County in Henan province on July 11, 1958 and is the son of a high-ranking officer in the People’s Liberation Army. He had received a standard education in communist ideology as a child, but had doubts about Communist rule later in life. On April 5, 1976, at the age of 17, Wang was imprisoned for his active participation as a leader during the April 15 movement taking place in the final year of the Cultural Revolution. Wang was jailed for political activity most notably, for writing political poems that infuriated the leadership of the Gang of Four and taking part in demonstrations commemorating the death of Zhou Enlai. After Mao’s death, Wang was released from prison and devoted his life to working for the democratization of China. In 1978, Wang became an Activist of the Democracy Wall and during this period, he founded the “Beijing Zhi Chun” (Beijing Spring) magazine, which was derived from and influenced by the Prague Spring of 1968.
In 1988, Wang co-founded and launched China’s first private institute and think tank: The Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute, also referred to as (SESRI) with his colleague and friend, Chen Ziming. SESRI carried out studies for public or private clients, published books, and conducted opinion polls on the political attitudes of people in China, such as democracy and reform. This privatization of knowledge and analysis was a first in China, and it obtained freedom of expression without government control. Under the SESRI, the Weekly, a non-official newspaper, became an influential independent Chinese newspaper that published intellectuals’ public opinion and analysed the expression of opinions and responses to the 1989 protest. Wang was editor-in-chief of the Weekly and was also author and co-author of 24 essays that commented on the problems of economic reform, criticizing Chinese economists, and the state of economic research.
In the aftermath of June 4, the CCP labelled Wang Juntao as one of the masterminds of the 1989 movement and placed him on China’s most wanted list. Wang sought out student Leaders who had vacated the square during the military advance, and wanted to smuggle them out of Beijing to help them escape; Wang Dan was among them. After three days of searching, Wang gathered them together and took them by train to Harbin where they could escape to Shanghai by plane. Wang had gone into hiding in various towns around China thereafter, but was found and arrested in Changsha four months later while trying to purchase a train ticket during his planned escape to Hong Kong.
In September 1991, the Justice Ministry announced that Wang had been moved to a hospital in Yanqing Prison and a spokesman acknowledged that he was suffering from hepatitis. In 1992, Wang’s wife Hou Xiaotian took legal action challenging court rulings on valuables that were confiscated from him during the fall of 1989, and the second against Qincheng Prison where Wang was held after his arrest in October 1989, for being responsible for him contracting hepatitis. In 1993, Hou wrote a letter: “Free My Husband” to U.S. President Bill Clinton, appealing for her husband’s release to the West and asking for U.S. involvement for efforts to advance human rights. Under pressure from Bill Clinton and international associations and trade talks, the U.S. negotiated for Wang’s release. In February 1994, the White House announced that Beijing had until June 3 to show signs of openness in terms of human rights. If not, the American government would withdraw the trade privileges that allowed China to export their products to the American market.
On April 24, Wang Juntao was released from prison and taken to Beijing airport to be put on a FLIGHT for New York. China announced that Wang was freed for medical reasons and would be treated in the United States, with no intentions of letting him return to China. Wang Juntao has been living in the U.S. since 1994, and resides in Flushing, Queens, New York. In 1997, Wang completed his Master’s Degree at Harvard university for Public Administration, and in 2006, he completed his PhD in Political Science Government at Columbia University.