Wu'er Kaixi, who was a student leader in 1989 and has been in exile ever since, recalls how in the late 80s, as a student at Beijing Normal University, he and other students beat the system that was intent on stopping them talking. They used to have 'reclining discussion groups'. 'At 11pm sharp every night, electricity was cut to the university dormitories, plunging them into darkness,' he says. 'This was a ruling that had been introduced in the early 1980s in order to prevent students from forming after-hours groupings.' But it was hardly a success. In student dormitories throughout the capital, sleepless students sprawled in their beds, six to a room, 'filling the darkness with conversation on everything from sex to politics'. In those years, Wu'er Kaixi says, special economic zones had been formed and Deng Xiaoping had announced 'to get rich was glorious', but 'as we students and many other Chinese saw it, the only people getting rich were party officials and their hangers-on'. With every step in the reform process, he says, personal freedoms were curtailed. 'By the time I was at university, the latest campaign was against bourgeois liberalisation. We hated it. All it did was to give party busy-bodies the right to confiscate tapes of pop music and separate girls and boys walking too close.' Wu'er Kaixi first heard about the death of former Chinese Communist Party general secretary Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989, 'the way we heard about all important events in China - through rumours'. Hu had been forced to resign from his post for 'laxness' but was popularly regarded as a force for political reform. 'The mood on campus was restless on the Sunday and the Monday following Hu's death, and big character posters started to appear on walls, some openly criticising China's leaders,' says Wu'er Kaixi. On Monday morning, 600 students had marched from the Chinese University of Political Science and Law to lay wreaths in Tiananmen Square, and later about 1,000 students from Beijing University did the same. That evening, Wu'er Kaixi encountered about 1,000 students near a monument and heard mutters of 'What have we got to lose?' and 'What future do we have anyway?' 'I gave a speech,' he says. 'I said China's development had been uneven and uncertain, and the chief obstacle to real development was its architect, the party. It was time that the obstacle listened to the people.' The speech was the beginning of the exile's involvement with a movement that would lead to an estimated 100 million people throughout China taking to the streets and, on June 4, 1989, an official clampdown that left hundreds, possibly more, dead on the streets of Beijing. Today, when asked what he thinks the protests achieved, he says they made people realise that they could be an equal party to the government through dialogue. He says the protests were also a major force in making the government open China up to foreign investment and become an economic force. The cost, he argues, has been a deal in which the Chinese people were offered the freedom to make money in exchange for silence on political reform. 'It's just delaying facing an awakened Chinese people,' he says. 'They may still be oppressed, jailed for speaking out, forced into exile, but they are no longer asleep.'