(NEW YORK) -- Fang Lizhi, a physicist and one of China's most prominent dissidents and human rights advocates, died on Friday at age 76, the New York Times reports.
Lizhi, a scientist, endured persecution by the Chinese government throughout his life and eventually gained many followers in China for speaking out against the Communist system. He published a letter to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1989 to petition for the release of political prisoners, which spawned a student-led pro-democracy movement that culminated in the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre. Lizhi sought refuge with his family at the American Embassy in Beijing until being granted permission to leave the country a year later.
Lizhi later taught physics and spoke out on human rights at the University of Arizona in Tucson until his death. His son Fang Ke said that the cause of his father's death is unknown.
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