A Heart For Freedom by Chai Ling
Recently a friend recommended me the memoir by Chai Ling, one of the key student leaders at Tiananmen back in 1989. I read keenly it. As someone participated in the movement, even though I wasn’t in Beijing, I was very interested in the subject and a memoir told by someone right in the frontline of the movement, with her insight, could potentially be fascinating.
But I was disappointed. The memoir is too long, covering her growing up in a small town called Rizhao in Shandong province, her life at Beijing University, her involvement with the unprecedented democratic movement, her escape to the west and then her conversion to Christianity. Lacking a central theme, it reads disjointed. There are so many tense, emotional charged moments that can be used as great material but never really realized. It is not a well-written book, sad to say.
I could forgive the poor writing skill if I feel the author is honest and trustworthy. But I think the book struck me as self-serving. The only brutally honest parts are the revelation of her four abortions. Even that served a point. I am not sure that she is really the person she tried to portrait herself. Chai Ling described a conversation between herself and Wang Dan, another student leader. Wang warned Chai that many people participating in the movement had their own agendas. Chai asked Wang what was his. Wang supposed replied that he loved a bit of fame. I am not sure such a conversation really took place. Look at them now, Wang serves as a history professor in Taiwan and still works to push for democracy in China.
Despite her talks about finding her god and love and hope, she doesn’t behave like a Christian. She sued the creators of the award-winning documentary The Gate of Heavenly Peace for defaming her. A quote from the documentary seems to suggest that Chai implied the students leaders were making use of the students’ lives and well-being for their own personal gains. Chai lost the lawsuit and several others lawsuits.
There have been quite a few memoirs on ‘June 4’. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone.
I am glad that the incident hasn’t not been forgotten by people in the world. Last night, the well attended vigil held in Hong Kong in the pouring rain was just an example.
See attached the picture I received – people living in the mainland have to be a little more subtle and creative in remembering the day.