Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Telegraph: Chinese-American Tech Boss Ping Fu Denies Inventing Cultural Revolution Horrors

The following news report was written by Philip Sherwell and published on The Telegraph on February 10, 2013:

She survived a childhood of persecution and brutality during China's Cultural Revolution to become a US technology high-flyer, award-winning entrepreneur, guest at the White House and adviser to the Obama administration. 

So it was little surprise that when Ping Fu published her memoirs last year, the searing account of how she was seized from her family at eight, gang-raped at 10 and then forced into exile after investigating infanticide of baby girls was acclaimed by critics and readers. 
But Miss Fu is now the target of a vitriolic and sustained onslaught from Chinese Internet users who are accusing her of invention and exaggeration in Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds -- its title drawn from a proverb about the resilience of bamboo in buffeting winds. 
At a time when American news organisations, the internet giant Google and even US government agencies suspect they have been targeted by Chinese computer hackers, Miss Fu has found herself on the vituperative frontline of cyber hostilities between China and the West. 
"I am living the title of the book," the chief executive of Geomagic, a 3-D imaging technology business, told The Sunday Telegraph in an often-tearful interview. 
"I was shell-shocked when the attacks started. I felt I was right back to being the eight-year-old without a voice in a denunciation session, being forced to face public humiliation, being called all sorts of names. 
"But however hurt and sad I am, I realise that I am not eight, I am not in China and that I am speaking out for all those little girls who are abused and still don't have a voice." 
Not the first memoirist to be challenged about the accuracy of a narrative, Miss Fu, 54, a divorced mother of a teenage daughter, has acknowledged some mistakes over dates and one incident she recounted in a media interview. "But I am not writing a history book, I am telling my story and this my life and what shaped it," she said. 
Indeed, some China-watchers believe that she is the subject of a co-ordinated campaign to discredit her by nationalist online activists who have taken her story as a sleight on an entire nation. 
The attacks are intense. The sales website Amazon has been flooded by one-star reviews (the lowest possible) for her book; some critics have accused her of falsifying her story to win residency illegally in the US; her Wikipedia page entry has been hacked; and insulting emails were sent to a potential business partner. 
Most hurtful were accusations she had invented a gang rape when she was a child by critics who insisted that such attacks do not happen in China. 
"I was being the victimised as the 'broken shoe' again," she said, referring to a term of abuse often used for prostitutes that was applied to her by a particular tormenter in the wake of the brutal sexual assault. 
"Who are they to tell me this never happened, that these things don't happen in China? I have the scars. I know what was done to me." 
The broadsides began after a Forbes magazine interview with Miss Fu suffered some "lost in translation" interpretations when it appeared in Chinese, she said, most notably, that she wrote about children in labour camps -- something that does not appear in her book. 
But Zhouzi Fang, an influential Chinese blogger and campaigner against alleged academic fraud, then began trawling through her book and previous interviews and identified what he said were a series of discrepancies and fabrications. 
Notably, he seized on a radio interview in 2010, the year in which Miss Fu's profile in America reached new heights after she was invited as a guest by First Lady Michelle Obama to attend the president's state of the union speech. 
In that interview, she described witnessing a public quartering during the Cultural Revolution by horsemen dragging their victim apart in four directions. Mr Fang noted that there had been no other claims of such executions being conducted in China. 
Miss Fu now says that she believes that as a young child, she had confused tales told to her of barbarity in old China with the brutality she witnessed and experienced after the Cultural Revolution was unleashed by Mao's Red Guards in 1966. 
But Mr Fang and his online followers have also scorned the plausibility of Miss Fu's account of how she came to move to America penniless in 1984. 
As a child, she said, her father, a university professor, and her mother, an accountant, were sent to the countryside for "re-education", leaving her to care for herself, raise her younger sister and spend eight years working in a factory. 
She then describes how she was forced apart from her family a second time when she was forced out by the regime as punishment for writing a college paper, during what she had thought was a time of post-Mao liberalisation, about the one-child policy which effectively led to girl infanticide in rural areas where some parents killed their first-borns if they were not boys. 
Miss Fu said he was arrested on campus, bundled into the back of a police car with a black bag over her head, and later told she must leave the country without making a fuss. The essay, she said she later discovered, was passed by tutor to a Chinese newspaper which wrote an editorial calling for greater gender equality on the basis of its contents. 
Amid all the controversy and casting of doubt, the reality of course is that this era in China was one where public records are minimal. But not even her fiercest critics can dispute her stellar academic and professional career since she arrived in the US aged 26 in 1984 for a college course arranged through family connections. 
After working for Bell Labs and at the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications, she and her then husband set up Geomagic in 1997. She was named by Inc magazine in 2005 as its entrepreneur of the year and she joined the National Advisory Council on innovation and entrepreneurship in 2010. 
So successful was this career that Miss Fu as initially commissioned to write a business book, but she said that when she started on the project, she realised that she could not describe how she makes decisions now without explaining the importance of her past on her life. 
Adrian Zackheim, the head of Portfolio Penguin, the book's publisher, told The Sunday Telegraph that the company was standing whole-heartedly by Miss Fu and her memoir. 
"It is a wonderful book and she is an admirable person and I am very proud to be her publisher," he said. "This is a memoir, it is her story, it is not investigative journalism. 
"Memoirs are often least reliable when they cover the early years of childhood, but I have no doubt of its overall credibility." 
For Miss Fu, there is no little irony that she has exposed herself to these tirades after writing a story that even her own mother wished she had left untold. "Gang-rape is still a taboo in China," she said. "I am a single mother and my mother said to me: 'Don't you want to marry again? Why do you need to tell this?'" 
But Miss Fu said she had no regrets that she had chosen to tell her story. "In the end, I wanted to show how love, compassion and generosity can lead to a better life. 
"This is not an attack on China. Just as a mass shooting does not define America, my history does not define China. 
"I'm human, not perfect, if I mixed up some dates, I will correct them. I would appreciate instructive feedback, but this is not that. 
"You don't have to believe me or like it or read it. But this is my story, my life, and who are these people to bully me while they hide behind the Internet?"

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