Ping Fu's descriptions of a tormented childhood growing up during China's cultural revolution fiercely criticised
Doubts have arisen over the veracity of an autobiography written by the executive of a major US technology firm.
In Bend Not Break, Ping Fu describes the horrors of growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution and her remarkable rags-to-riches tale that saw her become the chief executive and co-founder of the 3D software company Geomagic. She was named Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 and was invited by Michelle Obama to the White House after the 2010 State of the Union address.
The book describes how Fu was forcibly removed from her family by the Red Guards and sent to a re-education camp where she was starved, tortured and gang-raped, forced into child labour and deprived of an education.
But her claims are now being challenged by several readers and Chinese critics who suggest her version of events may be exaggerated or fabricated.
In one interview, Fu has described how she was forced to watch a teacher torn apart by four horses.
But the influential Chinese blogger Fang Zhouzi claims that there is no evidence to suggest that such a barbaric act ever took place and considers it an unlikely practice at that time in China’s history. No witnesses have come forward to corroborate the claims.
Indeed, Fu has now accepted that this detail could have been an “emotional memory”, confessing that her nightmares have blended into her memories: “Somehow in my mind I always thought I saw it, but now I’m not sure my memory served me right. I probably saw it in a movie or something, and I acknowledge that’s a problem.”
Other questions have arisen in relation to her alleged deportation from China to the US. According to the book, Fu was forced to leave because of her thesis on female infanticide, which was published by the People’s Daily. This subsequently led to an international outcry and her detention.
Yet the likelihood that the newspaper would ever have published such a piece has attracted widespread doubt.
“In fact anyone with a bit of political common sense knows that People's Daily at that time was full of nothing but glorious and wonderful news and it's impossible anything affecting China's image as much as this would've received coverage,” commented Fang.
Fu has attempted to defend herself against the allegations in a blog post for the Huffington Post: “I remember reading an editorial in a newspaper in 1982 that called for gender equality. It was not a news article and not written by me, and I didn’t know it had anything to do with my research…People who have not read the book made assumptions that I submitted the research to the newspaper, or I published the thesis, but that was not how I described it in the book.”
As a result of the negative publicity surrounding the book, ratings on Amazon.com have plummeted, gaining a meagre 1.6 star rating. Vitriolic responses from Amazon users have flooded in, accusing Fu of being a liar, which has led some news outlets to suggest that critics are simply unhappy about the book's "airing of China's dirty laundry". One comment read “ It is too bad that innocent American people have to learn about China, Cultural Revolution and Chinese people through this kind of lies” – a statement widely echoed across the book’s webpage.
Adrian Zackhein, the president of her publisher, Porfolio, commented: “We are proud of the book, and of Ping, and of her perseverance. Ping worked hard to get her facts right, but it’s her memory that she’s offering…it’s a personal memoir that’s written with candor.”