Making good use of resources real journalists have, the Guardian has joined the fray in the controversy regarding Ping Fu's autobiography, Bent, not Break: A Life in Two Worlds.
Joining in the criticism of her book are some of the most respected China experts in the world, including Prof. Perry Link, a world renowned expert on modern Chinese literature at the University of California at Riverside and Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University, Prof. Yinghong Cheng, a professor of history at Delaware State University, and Prof. Therese Hesketh of University College London, an expert on population controls in China.
With the help from these experts, the article raised new questions about the book, not raised in my previous series of diaries. Anyone following this controversy should read the article.
Below is a short summary of the key points in the Guardian article.
For background information, please read my previous diaries: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII.
In my previous diaries, I had to rely mostly on Ping Fu's own words and common knowledge such as the history and geography of Nanjing and Shanghai to refute Ping Fu's lies. Some events described in her book, including the Red Maple Society and the infanticide thesis, I could not refute because I did not have any concrete evidence, although those claims looked suspicious. The article in Guardian was able to refute these claims with the help of experts.
About the Red Maple Society, Ping Fu said in the book that they sent a representative to Beijing for a meeting organized by publishers:The government decided at the last minute to ban the gathering of the ten universities, deeming it illegal. Instead, it was announced that china's de facto leader, Deng Xiaoping, would receive the representatives for a private meeting.
This was when things went terribly wrong.The Guardian article showed that the above claim was completely false: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.And even the existance of the Red Maple Society was questioned by someone who was there: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."Ping Fu countered this criticism with another ridiculous lie: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.Sure, an underground magazine would send a representative to Beijing to be received by the paramount leader himself, bringing with him a copy of the magazine that was supposed to be secret. It makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?
As for Ping Fu's claim that she personally witnessed hundreds of baby killings:I witnessed the horrifying consequences with my own eyes: female infants drowned in rivers and lakes, umbilical wounds still fresh; baby girls flushed down the sewage system or suffocated in plastic bags and tossed into garbage binsThe glaring out of time, out of place errors notwithstanding (in 1982 there were few plastic bags in China, and most places did not have garbage bins), here is what Guardian says about the claim: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."Finally, perhaps the most ridiculous claim in the whole book, as described by the Guardian: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.I had not noticed this detail myself. Good catch, Guardian!
I am glad that finally journalists are starting to do their job in this case. We can tell Chinese people now that free press indeed works. Thank you!