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The three protesters responsible for the act, Yu Zhijian, Yu Dongyue, and Lu Decheng, were friends from China’s southern Hunan Province who’d travelled to Beijing to support the ongoing student protests. They arrived in the capital on May 18, two days before Premier Li Peng declared martial law.
All three were apprehended by other protesters and soon after handed over to the Beijing’s Public Security Bureau. They were charged with counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement, counter-revolutionary sabotage, writing reactionary slogans, and destruction of state property.
Yu Zhijian was sentenced to life in prison, in the end serving 11 years and 6 months; Yu Dongyue was sentenced to 20 years in prison and served 16 years and 9 months; Lu Decheng was sentenced to 16 years and served 8 years and 8 months. Dongyue suffered permanent psychological damage due to the torture he endured and Zhijian became his full-time carer upon release.
Yu Zhijian gave an interview to Liao Yiwu in 2005 which since been translated into English in full: [Part #1](https://chinachange.org/2017/06/02/interview-with-yu-zhijian-one-of-the-three-hunan-hooligans-who-defaced-the-portrait-of-mao-zedong-over-tiananmen-square-in-1989/), [Part #2](https://chinachange.org/2017/06/02/interview-with-yu-zhijian-one-of-the-three-hunan-hooligans-who-defaced-the-portrait-of-mao-zedong-over-tiananmen-square-in-1989-part-two/). It’s worth reading, it’s not quite a simple matter and their reason for doing it was unfortunately out of frustration with the student protesters as much as with the government in the end.
Having Mao’s pic in public place in China it’s like having Hitler’s picture hung in Germany public places.