Thursday, March 28, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Parents being Sent Away

The Original Version:
Among a chaotic horror, Fu Ping's fateful day reached the climax when she finally saw her parents, as in Pages 26-27 in Bend, Not Break:
Once I took in the scene, the situation seemed hopeless. Armed military personnel unloaded from tanks and trucks lining the road in front of the main entrance to the university. Behind the military line they had formed, a crowd of thousands pushed at one another and yelled at the Red Guards. Trucks jammed with more people passed by. Chaos filled the air, and confusion shone forth from the face of every citizen. Still eager to find Nanjing Mother and Father, I squeezed between people's legs and made my way to the front of the crowd, right up against the university gates. 
Suddenly, I heard my nickname being called by a thin and familiar voice. Standing on my tiptoes and stretching my neck long to make myself taller, I struggled to determine where the sound was coming from. 
"Ping-Ping!" the voice called again, enabling me to home in on one of the trucks where Red Guards were loading up citizens. Standing there in the truck bed were my Nanjing parents. They furiously nudged their bodies through the crowd to get closer to the edge of the truck bed so that they could wave to me. Their faces were flushed red and drawn tight.
The Debunking:
Where shall we start? We already talked about the impossibility of having tanks on the street in 1966. Indeed, there was no time during the Cultural Revolution that the Red Guards and the the regular military worked together. If any thing, the army was called in, two years later, to suppress the (original) Red Guards.

Just as the case of Fu Ping's siblings being sent away, her Nanjing parents could not have been sent away in 1966. Although the idea of sending government officers and intellectuals down to farms originated from an instruction by Mao Zedong on May 7, 1966 (五七指示), the practice did not start until two years later in 1968.

Even if they did start so much earlier in Nanjing. It is still impossible for Fu Ping's parents being sent away together. In China, everything is organized around a person's "work unit" (单位), or employer. We know that Fu Ping's father is a professor at NUAA. It was unclear exactly where her mother worked, but it was apparent that she did not work in the same school. Therefore she does not belong to NUAA. When NUAA was sending its people away from its campus, her mother would not be in the truck.

If her parents did get sent away, they would have gone separately.

By her account, Fu Ping had lived with her Shanghai parents all her life at this point. She saw her Nanjing parents only occasionally through the years. We don't know if her Nanjing parents were expecting her arrival on that day -- it would be rather implausible if the Red Guards bothered to inform them ahead of time. Even so, in the chaos as described, with Fu Ping, an 8-year-old girl, literally struggling "between people's legs" in the crowd, her mom was able to immediately spot and recognize her from high above a truck.

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