ALHAMBRA, CALIF. -- In a cluttered third-floor office next to a hair salon and across from a supermarket, managing editor Xiao Feng carefully trimmed mailing labels for the next issue of the Press Freedom Herald, principal organ of the Chinese democracy movement in America.
Nearby, his editor-in-chief and a fugitive Chinese journalist looked for places to sit amid computer terminals, shopping carts and paper scraps.
"We are printing the paper in six cities now," editor-in-chief Ben Tang said, ignoring the cramped conditions of his two-room editorial office. "Here, San Francisco, Washington, Atlanta, Houston and Toronto. We have achieved a lot."
Nationwide, a Chinese protest movement, born in the anguish of the Beijing massacre, seems to be taking firm hold. After a year of emotional demonstrations and painful adjustment to American life, Chinese student activists are establishing political and media organizations that may affect Sino-American relations for years.
Although the movement remains splintered by personal and ideological differences, the students and their American allies, galvanized by the killings near Tiananmen Square last June 3 and 4, have compiled a growing list of political successes and built the beginnings of a potent media enterprise.
In addition to Tang's Chinese-language newspaper, which distributes 30,000 copies of a four-page edition every 10 days, Chinese students in Chicago are producing a daily 30-minute radio show broadcast to China and students near Boston are compiling an archive of human-rights abuses by the Chinese government and a computer data base on Chinese affairs.
"The one thing we learned from last year was the movement was in too much of a hurry," said Liu Yuan, a graduate student at Brandeis University working at the China Information Center in Newton, Mass. "If some people, even a small group of people, can gradually and consistently work toward a goal, they can keep the movement alive."
"What some people call factionalism, I call pluralism," said Shen Tong, a former Beijing University student leader who escaped China and chairs the Democracy for China Fund in Boston. "The struggle is a long-term one, and now there are so many organizations working on different levels."
The 40,000 Chinese students and scholars in the United States are more than have ever come from another country. Their influence on American life and diplomacy appears to be accelerating despite a decline in the number of demonstrations that filled U.S. streets last summer.
Many students here are marrying and trying to have at least two children, giving the movement a new generation and allowing them to argue that forcible return to China would subject them to persecution under Beijing's one-child-per-family rule.
The students are heavily concentrated in graduate-level sciences. In many U.S. physics departments, their departure would be a severe blow because they comprise the majority of research assistants.
Their advocacy of democracy in China, and the Beijing government's unpopular effort to defend the army crackdown last summer, also have influenced the Chinese diplomatic corps. Xu Lin, a third secretary in the Chinese Embassy in Washington, announced his defection early last month and said 13 other Chinese envoys had sought political asylum in the United States since last June.
Tang, who edits the Press Freedom Herald while completing work on his master's thesis in Asian Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said efforts by some Chinese officials to harass students here appear half-hearted. He said Chinese government journalists have treated him "with respect, respect for what I've done and respect for me as an independent student here."
Student leaders acknowledge their failure to overturn President Bush's veto of a legislative guarantee for extension of their visas, which he extended by executive order, or to persuade him to deny most favored nation trade status to China.
But groups such as the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars are lobbying hard for Congress to block Bush's continuation of trade privileges for Beijing pending human-rights improvements.
In particular, they are demanding release of prominent political prisoners such as student leader Wang Dan or Wang Weilin, the man photographed blocking the forward movement of a Chinese army tank.
The Democracy for China Fund has established a "900" telephone number so people can lend their names to a campaign to send letters to the Chinese government asking release of Wang Weilin. The fund also is sponsoring a Democracy Tour, a series of nationwide town meetings that began April 15 and are to end today.
The movement has had a particularly strong impact on Congress, where majorities have supported the students repeatedly, if not always by numbers large enough to overturn a veto.
A rally is slated today on the West Lawn of the Capitol, with scheduled appearances by recently escaped Chinese student leaders Chai Ling and Feng Congde and Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.). A candlelight vigil is scheduled across from the Chinese Embassy Monday night.
Although Chinese students complain frequently of the Bush administration's efforts to maintain ties with the hard-line administration in Beijing, they say they have learned more about American politics and the mechanics of a working democracy from their defeats than from their victories.
They have acquired well-connected allies such as Pelosi, whose district has more Asian Americans than any outside Hawaii, and they have found Chinese Americans to be generous donors to their publishing and organizing ventures.
The Press Freedom Herald established its headquarters in this town of 70,000 northeast of Los Angeles because it and neighboring Monterey Park comprise the largest suburban concentration of Asian Americans in the continental United States. "They have given us support both financially and spiritually," Tang said.
Friction still abounds, however, between older graduate students who were studying in the United States before Tiananmen and the younger college students who escaped here after the massacre. The graduate students see their younger colleagues as naive and immature and point to the antics of Wuer Kaixi, former Beijing University student leader, as a prime example.
For them, Wuer Kaixi's many offenses include taking friends to an expensive lobster restaurant, announcing he was abandoning the movement to move to Australia and womanizing in Paris.
Of the major student leaders who have arrived since June, only Shen Tong at Brandeis has remained a full-time student. Wuer Kaixi dropped out of Harvard University after one semester.
Some escaped students hope to attend U.S. universities and are filling out applications and learning English. Some work in Chinese restaurants, and at least one is employed as a domestic.
Many students who arrived here before the massacre have not joined the movement because they "are disgusted with political activity," said Wang Huiyun, a University of Chicago graduate student and editor-in-chief of the Voice of June 4th radio program.
Perhaps "less than 10 percent" of Chinese students here are politically active, he estimated, and some student leaders asked that their marriages not be mentioned because their spouses want nothing to do with the movement.
But staff members of the Press Freedom Herald said they have little doubt that, whatever their numbers, the student activists are having an impact here and in China.
Chen Kai, fired last year as editor-in-chief of the Hainan Daily in southeastern China because of his sympathy for the students, escaped to the United States in April and works with the movement's newspaper.
"When I was still in China, I did not see the paper, but I heard about it. Many people did," Chen said. "From that, I knew there were students here fighting for democracy."
The former head of the All-Beijing Autonomous Student Federation distinguished himself as a brash and outspoken leader during a meeting with Premier Li Peng. A former education major at Beijing Normal University, he fled to France last June and is vice chairman of the Federation for a Democratic China, living in Paris where the group is headquartered.
He was co-organizer of the Dialogue Delegation that initiated and maintained contact with the government during the student movement. A former biology major at Beijing University, Shen arrived in the United States a week after the massacre and is studying at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. He is chairman of the Democracy for China Fund, a nonprofit group based in Boston.
Co-organizer of the Dialogue Delegation, he was a graduate student at the University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. He escaped to the United States with his wife in December, leaving behind an infant child. He is to begin studies at Columbia Law School this fall.
A member of the All-Beijing Autonomous Student Federation leadership, Feng remained in hiding for 10 months before escaping to France at the end of April. A former graduate student at Beijing University, he is married to student leader Chai Ling. They live in Paris.
A leader of hunger strikers in Tiananmen Square, Chai became commander of the Safeguard Tiananmen Square Headquarters in the last days of the student movement. She fled with Feng to France in April.
A former graduate student at the Social Science Institute, Wang acted as liaison officer for the All-Beijing Autonomous Student Federation. In March, she fled to London, leaving behind her husband and young child. She lives in Los Angeles.
A hunger-strike leader who became deputy commander of the Safeguard Tiananmen Square Headquarters, Li escaped to France last June and lives in New York City.
PROMINENT DISSIDENT LEADERS IN EXILE Chen Yizi
The most influential intellectual who escaped after the massacre, Chen headed the Institute for Economic Structural Reform, a liberal think tank supported by ousted general secretary Zhao Ziyang. Chen heads the Modern China Center, a research organization based in New York City and modeled after the Institute.
A leading researcher at the Institute of Social Science, Yan lives in Paris and is chairman of the Federation for a Democratic China.
China's most prominent journalist and writer, Liu was expelled from the Communist Party in 1987 for his muckraking reportage of official corruption. He was a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University during the 1989 student movement and is a fellow at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.