Friday, April 26, 2013

Bend Fact: Fu Ping's Deportation

The Original Story:
The very first sentence of Bend, Not Break, on Page 1, declared,
When I was twenty-five years old, the Chinese government quietly deported me.
She elaborated a little more on Page 258:
A few weeks after the house arrest began, I was called to the local police station and given my government orders. "You must leave China at once. You are not welcome back," a stiff-lipped officer told me. He instructed me never to talk about my arrest or my thesis research. "Don't embarrass your country again." After a short silence, he then added, "We know where your family lives."
In several of her media interviews in 2013, Fu Ping and/or her hosts variously used the phrases "deported", "exile", or "kicked out" to describe her departure from China in 1984.

The Changing Story:
Facing wide-spread questioning, Fu Ping explained to Jenna Goudreau of Forbes, as the latter reported on January 31, 2013:

It also raised eyebrows that she said she had been exiled or deported from China, when there is no official record of it. When I asked her to address it, Fu says “exile” is not the correct word, despite that it’s used in the press release being sent to media members to promote her memoir. The release first states “Ping was deported,” and later repeats “Ping was exiled.”  
“In the beginning of the book I said the Chinese government quietly deported me,” she says. In fact, it is the first line. “We could say that was a literary interpretation. I was asked to leave. My father helped me to find a visa to the US. I was told not to talk about it or to file for political asylum. My interpretation was I involuntary left China….If someone wants to say this is not deportation, fine. That’s my interpretation.” Who asked her to leave? “The police,” she says.  
When I first interviewed her, Fu described being taken in by the police shortly before her college graduation, not being able to graduate and being asked to leave the country. She said, “I was told to leave, and I had two weeks.” I looked back at the timeline she presented and noticed that there was a span of six to seven years between when she took her Suzhou University entrance exam (1977) and arrived in the US (January 1984). When I asked her to confirm it, she says she didn’t start college until the fall of 1978, which she says would have put graduation in the fall of 1982, and that she got in trouble with the police in 1983. I asked: Isn’t there a timing gap of a year? “That’s true. That’s a good question,” Fu says. “Let me go back and verify that one.”  
Late last night, Fu’s publicist emailed me that they “confirmed that Ping started school in 1978 and left school in the fall of 1982 after being held by the government. She arrived in the U.S. on January 14, 1984.” So she was at home for over year before the police asked her to leave China? “The government asked Ping to leave a couple of weeks after her release,” the publicist wrote me. “However, getting a passport was very difficult, if not impossible, at that time. Even though Ping was asked to leave China, she had to wait for an official passport to be issued.”
The Debunking:
We will come back to her bizarre passport situation and story in later posts.

Unlike the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, Chinese government did not adopt the policy of deporting or exiling dissidents until well into the 1990s. In the early 1980s, China had just begun to open her doors and outside world was a mysterious place. The younger generation, and college students in particular, dreamed for opportunities to go abroad but that was out of reach to all but a very selected few at the time.

There were already many famous dissidents at the time, most remarkably the participants of the Democracy Wall movement around 1978. Closer to Fu Ping's timeline, there were many college students who got into bigger political trouble by participating in campus elections. None were deported. In fact, one famous artist who participated in the Democracy Wall movement and later married a French citizen had to fight her way all  the way to the top leadership for her right to leave China.

If Fu Ping's self-claimed political trouble could lead her to be deported, there would have been dozens if not hundreds of similar cases. Consequentially, there would have been an eruption of dissident movement as many people would view it as a shortcut for a lifetime dream. None of that happened.

It is possible that some people in low-level government positions may have said something to her along the line that "you better go abroad..." It would be difficult to speculate their motivations without circumstantial data. But they would unlikely be the "government orders" as she claimed.

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