It's also worth noting that Professor Perry Link, who was quoted in this story, is still banned from visiting China by the government there for his pro-democracy involvement decades ago. So, he could be hardly grouped into the conspiracy theory of a Chinese government sponsored "smear campaign."
Top US software entrepreneur faces new contradiction claims over rags-to-riches memoir of personal torment in 60s China
A successful US entrepreneur faces mounting questions over her widely lauded tale of childhood torment in China's cultural revolution, as fresh contradictions emerge and experts cast doubt on key elements of her story.
Ping Fu's rags-to-riches memoir Bend Not Break says she was torn away from her parents at eight, brutally abused and sent to work in a factory; then forced to leave China for the US after triggering an international outcry over female infanticide as a student. She went on to found software company Geomagic, currently being acquired by 3D Systems.
Critics acknowledge the horrors of the cultural revolution, but question Fu's personal account. She has already conceded that a description of Red Guards killing a teacher by tying their victim to four horses was an "emotional memory" and probably wrong. Closer examination of her book and interviews reveal numerous conflicting claims and experts told the Guardian several parts of her story were implausible.
Fu, 54, said she was traumatised and hurt by the criticism, adding: "I don't know who is behind this, but somebody is."
One of her most striking claims is that Sun Yat-sen, revered as the father of modern China, "raised my grandfather and granduncle as his own sons" – akin to a Briton being reared by Winston Churchill. Prof John Wong of the University of Sydney, an expert on Sun's life, said he had no knowledge of such wards.
Fu told the Guardian: "That was what I was told by my family before I left China. I believe this is true. My mother says it's in history books." She then added that Sun was attentive towards them, rather than actually adopting them.
In a chapter of her book titled Factory Worker, Fu describes labouring in factories for a decade until schools reopened in 1976. She describes working six hours a day, six days a week and told an interviewer she never went to school in 10 years.
Experts on the cultural revolution told the Guardian schools mostly reopened in 1968 or 1969 and that pupils had lessons in factories to learn skills, but were not used as labour.
Fu said: "For 10 years I didn't have proper schooling. I was sent to study in the factory, and sometimes in farms."
A photograph supplied to media by Fu shows her posing with a little red book, Mao badge and armband. Michel Bonnin of Tsinghua University and Prof Yin Hongbiao of Beijing University said it showed she was not disgraced as a "black element" at the time, as she claimed; Fu said it was common for children to be pictured pledging allegiance to Mao, "whether 'black' or 'red'".
Fu also says she was arrested and criticised by Suzhou University authorities after Deng Xiaoping, then China's paramount leader, met student publishers. She says Deng had seen a daring article from the popular magazine she edited.
Perry Link, an expert on modern Chinese literature at the University of California at Riverside, said student magazine representatives met in 1979, but added: "I do not believe for a moment that Deng Xiaoping ever came near the group."
Neither he nor others knows of a representative from Fu's group, Red Maple, attending. Fu said she believed the article was selected for This Generation, the joint publication from the meeting, but Link's copy shows it is not included.
Yinghong Cheng, now a professor of history at Delaware state university, studied at the same time and in the same building at Suzhou as Fu, and had his own literary group. He told the Guardian: "I am completely unaware of that group [Red Maple] and publication, and if it had been that popular I would have known about it."
Fu, who supplied a copy of her magazine, said her contemporaries might not have heard of the society because it was underground. She said Deng met the representatives at the same time as Communist Youth League leaders, noting that she was told about the meeting and was not present.
The entrepreneur claims she was ordered to leave China after exposing female infanticide in the early 80s, writing that in a few months of research she "witnessed with her own eyes" drowned and suffocated female infants. Last month, she told a radio station she watched "hundreds of baby girls being killed in front of my eyes. I saw girls being tossed into the river."
Therese Hesketh of University College London, an expert on population controls in China, said: "I have never heard stories of this kind. Infanticide did of course occur, but was not commonplace … It certainly was not done in public as even at that time to be caught meant a possible murder charge."
Fu told the Guardian that she mis-spoke in the live radio interview and should have said "my research was based on hundreds of cases, and I saw baby girls killed right in front of my eyes".
She added: "If you went to the countryside and to the family planning unit it was going on all the way down the line in every village and every school. Very few people were allowed to go to the poor areas. These kinds of things happened, and China doesn't want people to know it happened."
The entrepreneur once said Deng personally intervened to free her when she was jailed due to the resulting outcry – a remarkable detail not mentioned in her book.
Other questions include when Fu left China: she has said variously that it was two weeks or over a year after her release.
Fu said she had been wrong to call the criticism a smear campaign, adding she had realised the people she thought were attacking her were telling their own stories of the cultural revolution.
"I hope that this will turn into a more civil discussion about what happened and if any good can come from it I don't mind that people have turned their anger towards me so long as we can heal together," she said.
Adrian Zackheim, publisher of Penguin's business imprint, Portfolio, said: "Ping Fu wrote in the Author's Note at the front of her book: 'I have tried my best to remember and describe the events and people in my life. Mostly, I have used real names, although some names have been altered to protect privacy. Many details happened more than forty years ago and I've tried as much as possible to verify the facts.'
"Sometimes, despite everyone's best efforts, minor mistakes appear in nonfiction books. Whenever they are brought to an author's attention they are corrected in future printings. Ping has already acknowledged several of these, and if any additional corrections are required, of course those will be made as well."