Xu Wenli is chairman of the Chinese Democratic Party in exile and senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute.
Xu Wenli is one of China’s most recognized pro-democracy advocates. He spent 16 years in prison for his activities as a dissident. He was a leader in the Democracy Wall movement from 1979 to 1981, edited the samizdat -style journal April Fifth Forum. He was arrested in 1981 and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1982. Released on parole in 1993, Mr. Xu continued his work on the formation of an opposition party and played a major role in establishing the Beijing-Tianjin branch of the China Democracy Party on November 9, 1998. twenty-one days later, he was arrested and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Mr. Xu’s health suffered while in prison and, in reaction to his declining condition, international human rights groups, the U.S. ambassador to China, and Western officials called for his release. The Chinese government finally relented and released him on medical grounds in December 2002. He and his wife left China immediately for the United States to be reunited with their daughter, Xu Jin, who lives in Rhode Island. Xu Wenli is a Senior Fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International Studies. He was the recipient of an honorary doctorate at Brown in 2003 and is affectionately known as China’s “Godfather of Dissent.” He was recently named chairman of the China Democratic Party as the party’s first global meeting, attended by over 40 exiled Chinese democracy leaders, came to a close.