Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fu Ping's 2010 Interview with APM's The Story

On March 9, 2010, Fu Ping had a lengthy interview on American Public Media's The Story radio show hosted by Dick Gordon. It's one of the occasions that she discussed her life story with her own voice. The story she told in this interview is consistent with her current version, but there are a few interesting details:

  1. The only three English words she knew when she came to US was "thank you", "help", and "excuse me".
  2. In her Shanghai home, They had nannies for each of the children.
  3. When the Red Guards picked her up at Nanjing train station, they took her home in a military motorcycle. [as opposed to car or Jeep in other versions]
  4. People were getting shot dead on the street as they drove by.
  5. They witnessed the killing of two teachers, including one by four horses.
  6. When she was 10 or 11, she was sent to work in a "collective farm" while her sister, who would be 6 or 7 at the time, lived alone in the dorm.
  7. Fu Ping had no formal schooling before 18 but apparently had help from older students in studying.
  8. News story based on her thesis research of infanticide was first published in Wenhui Daily (文汇报) and then picked up by People's Daily.
  9. Someone at Albuquerque arranged her visa to study in University of New Mexico. [as opposed to she didn't know why she was sent there.]
  10. No mention of the alleged involvement by Deng Xiaoping in her political case
  11. No mention of the kidnapping tale while discussing of her arrival at US. [might have been interrupted by the host.]
The interview can be heard in its entirety here. Or you can read the relevant transcript below:
Gordon: About 30 years ago, a college student from China arrived in the United States. She wasn't here because she wanted to be. She has essentially been kicked out of China because she embarrassed the government there. Ping Fu had a visa and a place at the University of New Mexico. But she didn't even have enough money to get a cab from the airport in Albuquerque.
Fu Ping: I took basically a English phrase book and hecticly remember some of the useful words. By the time I get here, I can only remember three. [laugh] I can't remember many.
Gordon: which were?
Fu Ping: which is "thank you", "help", and "excuse me".
Gordon: "help" would be a good one.
Fu Ping: "help" was a good one.
Gordon: Ping Fu had come through some terrifying times in China's Cultrual Revolution before her arrival in the US. She is now, however, the Chief Executive Officer of the US high-tech firm Geomagic. I am Dick Gordon. This is The Story.
[Program break and discussions of Geomagic and 3D imaging technology]
Gordon: ...Although she was born into an affluent family in mainland China, she suffered some of the worst deprivations of the Cultural Revolution before making her way to this country. When she was very small, she was raised by her aunt and uncle in Shanghai.
Fu Ping: I was the youngest and the most beloved little girl. I think my brothers and sisters tease me sometimes but I don't want to believe it.
Gordon: tease you for not really being their family?
Fu Ping: Right. They say, oh you were not born by Mom. I would go and hold onto her legs and say, "Mom, I am born by you, right?" She would say, "yes, of course." But my biological Mom come to visit sometimes. So my aunt always told me that I am so special it takes two mothers to born me.
Gordon: You bought that
Fu Ping: I bought that.
Gordon: There were nannies for each of the children. As Ping Fu recalls it, it was a very privileged life. But this was also the early sixties of time, just before the Cultural Revolution when the wealthy people in China were being persecuted.
Fu Ping: When I was around 7, I know something was happening out there and I was too young to really understand the political changes but I can sense it. So my uncle already started to prepare me for the change to come and he taught me this three friends of the winter, which is bamboo, pine tree, and there is this flower that blooms in February. So he said, "Ping you must be bamboo that you bend in the prevailing wind and you never break."
Gordon: Ping Fu would soon be tested. When she was 8 years old, the Red Guards came to her house. They took her from her aunt and told her "that woman is not your mother. We are taking you away. You will go to Nanjing to be with your real parents."
Fu Ping: There was three Red Guards. They were holding my aunt away from me. My uncle was not at home. I was screaming and crying and said "They are lying. They are lying. Tell me you are my mother." I was crying and then she cried and she said, "Ping, don't fight. They are right. I am not your mother." And I scream and I said, "You are lying. You are just lying. You told me hundreds of times that you are my mother." And she went silent. She had her hand out and try to hold me. I mean, they deprived me a hug from the mother I knew. So they just took me away. And then I just heard her saying, "Don't fight, don't fight, they will hurt you. Just don't fight." That's all what she was telling me.
Gordon: what does it feel like?
Fu Ping: The last thing I remember, she was kneeing down on the floor with one of her arms reaching up. I always remember that hug... they did not let me have. And then I was at the train station. The train was so crowded, with so many people, literally you can't jam into the door. So the Red Guards literally took me and throw me in a window and from the window they stuff me into the train.
Gordon: This train was going to Nanjing.
Fu Ping: Yes, the train is going to Nanjing from Shanghai.
Gordon: Why did they care about a 7 or 8 years old girl, where she was going to live?
Fu Ping: I think, during the Cultural Revolution, they want to make sure that they have everyone registered. So, since my birth registration is not at Shanghai, they probably had a name call or something and found out I wasn't there. And I heard people calling my name and I looked out and it was a Red Guard, It wasn't my parents.
Gordon: These Red Guards, were they older soldiers, younger soldiers?
Fu Ping: They are usually teenagers, usually I would say between 14 to 18, middle school to high school age. Some of them are late teens but generally Red Guards are middle school to high school.
Gordon: So they are calling your name at train stop.
Fu Ping: Yeah, they have this name call. They have a list of who is coming. I went down to follow them. They put me in a motorcycle, kind of like a military motorcycle. So we are driving on the street and I see blood, killing, people get shot, just driving by. It was at the begining of the Cultural Revolution. Then when I arrived, they dumped me right in the street. There are a lot of people in the street outside, looking. I don't know what is going on then very soon I saw trucks coming. On the truck there are a lot of people on it. And I heard other people are saying those are the people who get sent away. And suddenly I heard my mother's voice. She was calling me "Ping, Ping" from one of the truck. Then I saw both my Mom and my Dad on the truck waving at me. It turns out that I arrived too late. They are taken away.
Gordon: Did you get to go over where they went?
Fu Ping: No. The truck just move very slowly and they move by me. And my Mom said, "Take care of your sister." I was 8 and I remember when they came to Shanghai to visit me with this little girl. I do remember that but I can't even remember how my sister look like.
Gordon: She wouldn't have too long to wait. The next thing that happened, Ping Fu was taken into an old university dormitory...Ping Fu was about to begin a 10 year period as the caregiver to her little sister.
Fu Ping: I got led to this one room and there was a little girl sitting on the floor crying. The room looks like a trash can basically. There are newspapers, cans, broken things everywhere and it was very dirty and very dusty except this one place where she is kicking her legs. It's kind of shinny. She was crying and the minute she sees me she crys, "Mom! Mom!" And I keep saying, "I am not your Mom!" Just that one day I lost Mom that raised me and the Mom who born me and I became sorrogate Mom to my sister.
Gordon: You were 8 years god. Your sister is how old at the time?
Fu Ping: She is 4.
Gordon: Were you cared for? How did you live then?
Fu Ping: No. The first day, the room did not have a bathroom, didn't have a wash basin. I want to go bathroom and I couldn't find anything. And my sister actually knew it was outside of the building. So even though she was 4, apparently somebody took her there. So, she led me to the bathroom. There is no kitchen either. There will be a stove you burn coal outside of your room. In the hallway everybody has a coal stove outside of their room. So I kind of watched the neighbors to see how they lit their stoves.
Gordon: And you have to make your own food on this coal stove?
Fu Ping: We have to make our own food. The first few days we didn't because we didn't have any food so we just kind of starving. And then the nanny distributed some rice so we can cooked our own food.
Gordon: You were managing a household, for the two of you.
Fu Ping: I was managing a household, yes.
Gordon: How did that work out?
Fu Ping: Well, I did learn very early on to manage the household because I have to take whatever is given to me and split half with my sister.
[program break]
Fu Ping: When we first got together in the dormitory, they gathered us all to a soccer field. It's a big soccer field in the middle of the living quarter of the student dormitory. They killed two teachers right in front of us to scare us. So, they basically said that, if you dare to say anything wrong or do anything wrong, this is what gonna happen to you. One teacher was tied up on 4 horses on the field and, when the 4 horses going 4 different directions and she just got split. We were forced to watch it. That was in the first 10 days I was there.
Gordon: I listen to you telling these stories and I don't really know how you made it through. Do you ever think about that? Do you ever think about how is it you made it through and remain balanced?
Fu Ping: Back then I think the beginning was very difficult and many times I wanted to die but I had a little sister. So some, maybe the human nature has this instincts because she keeps calling me Mom. And because I had good Mom took care of me so somehow I felt that I had the responsibility for her. My mother also said on the truck to take care of your sister. I was already 8 and I was already being educated as a Confucian  If she wasn't there I probably would have done something stupid and get killed or something. I felt the responsibility for her. I think that was one. The second thing I made it a little easier was it was not just us. There was a lot of us. So there were like, probably, 50, 60 of us in the dormitory  And there was certain comfort on other people suffer the same way you suffer -- I don't know what it is.
Gordon: There was some time later when the Red Guards threw Ping Fu's sister into a pond. Ping went in to get her. Ping said that that so infuriated the Red Guard that they took her off to a soccer field where she was so brutally gang-raped that she passed out. She woke up in a little clinic that was nearby. The amazing thing is that Ping can still look back on some moments of that time and laugh. When she was 10 or 11, Ping was sent to a collective farm. Her sister stayed at home in their dorm room.
Fu Ping: So the first few years, if I have anything nice I will bring it home and she will always try to fight to get more. She was always so hungry and bored. I remember she will...once a week I will bring a little bit meat or egg. Usually we just had vegetables and rice. And I also learned how to pick wild vegetables. And whenever I have meat, she would drop her saliva in there, think that I will be grossed out so. Basically she will go like "Oh, it's so good" and then spit on it, having her saliva dripping in it.
Gordon: hoping that you would not want to have it.
Fu Ping: Right. I had the worst food so I didn't care. [laugh] Her saliva is just fine. [laugh] So that didn't work. Later, when we grew older, we would talk about this. That's when she told me. She said, I was hoping you would gross-out so I can have more. It didn't work!
Gordon: This life went on until Ping Fu was 18. There was no formal school but the older students and intellectuals were also locked out by the government who would work with the younger children. By the late seventies, Ping was able to take the required test to make it into a university. She studied literature and she did well. Ping might have avoided further trouble but for her thesis in her senior year she happened to choose a subject that landed her in serious trouble. This was the time when China's one-child policy. Most parents wanted a son and Ping's work explored the killing of infant girls.
Fu Ping: I heard whims of people are killing baby girls in the countryside. Of course I understand in China the farmers want boys. So I thought that would be a good one to pick as a thesis to do a report on that. Because it is not political. That's why I thought. Because I didn't dare to do any subject that is political. But what really got me in trouble was the teacher actually took some of what I wrote and submitted to the newspaper because everybody had good intention of calling for a stop
Gordon: So was this a college paper or was it the People's Daily?
Fu Ping: This was.. People's Daily picked it up from a different newspaper, the Shanghai Wenhui Daily, which is the biggest newspaper in Shanghai at the time. And People's Daily supported it too so they re-reported the same thing.
Gordon: But this is the paper that belongs to the Communist Party. So if they are embracing your research you must think this is great.
Fu Ping: Yeah, well, at the time there is no authorship. When China is just coming out of Communist so newspapers usually just says what the editor says. It doesn't say who reports it. So this is the first time the Communist Party admited there is a wide-spread killing. It's in 1981. All the newspapers picked it up and UN started sanction on China for human rights violation. That's when nobody wanted to say they did it. So it goes down to look for the scapegoat as where the source come from.
Gordon: So what happens to you?
Fu Ping: I was on campus one day and somebody put a black bag over me and literally carried me like a sack and put me in a car and driven some distance. I was only in a jail in a room where there was no light, no food, no water. For 3 days. No explanation of why I was arrested. I thought, oh my God, I am dead. But it is sad to me now my life has just turned around. Because I absolutely loved to be in a university and loved the learning. It seemed to me my life has turned around and China is changing. I didn't understand it but then I lived so many years with so many things that are not understandable. So many people got killed with no reason. So it wasn't even that strange to me.
Gordon: Ping Fu only spent a few days in that jail but when she was released she was told to leave the country. Her father was able to get her a visa that would allow her to study at the University of New Mexico. She was never even been in a plane. She spoke no English. She landed in Albuquerque but got not enough money to take a taxi to the university.
Fu Ping: That was actually the first time the reality set in. Because when I came over, it was fun while in the airplane. First ride, smiling stewardess who takes care of me, first time to feel air conditioning, constant temperature. I mean, everything was new, everything was exciting. And then in Albuquerque at the airport suddenly I got hit that I didn't know where to go and I have no money. I don't even know how to get to the university. The guy who helped to get my visa has left the city. I have one suitcase and that's all my belongs in there. Just cloths and some towers and things like that. I sat on that suitcase and cried. I don't know what to do. [laugh]
Gordon: in the airport?
Fu Ping: I sat outside of the airport and [unclear]
Gordon: When you newly arrived in the west, was there one person you met or one thing that made you think, OK I can do all right here?
Fu Ping: Yeah, I was waitressing in a restaurant and I met this black waitress -- her name is Alba -- she of course told me a lot about black history, the discrimination, civil war. So we had a debate on who is more black whether black by skin or black by genes. We were friends and she was always trying to help me whenever she sees I may be discriminated by the restaurant manager because I was too nice or I didn't know the rules. She will stand up for me. And once she found out that I was riding my bike 45 minutes each way to the restaurant on top of my study she insisted to give me a ride every day including on her day off. I was so very much touched by her kindness and she taught me when in doubt, always error in generosity.
[Discussions on how Fu Ping entered computer programming and entrepreneurship.]


  1. What was wrong with this woman?

  2. Interesting. Do you believe this? All these stories to me seem like fabricated like the killing of a teacher by 4 horses.