Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Dropout from Suzhou University

The Original Story:
On Pages 253-258 in Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping describes how her graduation thesis got her in trouble in school:
During my senior year, I selected a somewhat obscure research for my thesis: China's one-child policy... 
One day in the fall of 1982, as I innocently walked across campus making preparations for graduation...[her story of being kidnapped and detained by government, to be debunked later] 
"I want to leave university, claiming a nervous breakdown," I declared. My parents didn't question the decision; Uncle W had shared with them the advice he'd given me during the Red Maple Society scandal two years earlier. They feared that, given the black marks on my personal record, I would likely be sent to a far-off corner of China for some obscure job upon graduation. Such an outcome would force to relinquish my residence in Nanjing, and I might never be able to return to a city again. It would be better if, by pleading mental illness, I could avoid losing my residency.
The Debunking:

While many of Fu Ping's stories in her book suffer from unclear or inconsistent timeline issues, none is more serious between her senior year in college and her leaving China in January of 1984. Since she needed to make the case of her "deportation," she had to muddle up the close to two years gap between her thesis and her "exile."

The above is a glaring example. We now know that she entered college in the fall of 1978. Therefore, she was scheduled to graduate before the summer of 1982. In those years, time spent in China's colleges were very strict. There is no way that she was still on campus "making preparations for graduation" in the fall of 1982 and then decided to leave the school.

So, did Fu Ping actually dropout Suzhou University? She did. Just not in the fall of 1982 but some time in that spring. In an interview with Didi Kirsten Tatlow of International Herald Tribune, she provided a letter from her former classmate which stated that she "left university abruptly, without graduation," because of a nervous breakdown. The letter was dated May, 1982.

Suzhou University has also confirmed that Fu Ping left school on March 16, 1982.

The last paragraph from her book cited above probably gave the true reason for her dropout, while faking the nervous breakdown. Suzhou University, a teacher's college, is a low-tier college whose mission is to train elementary and middle school teachers. Their graduates were assigned to teaching jobs all over the province, most of them might end up in quite remote areas. While favoritism definitely existed in the job assignments, this applied to the majority of graduates, not just those with "black marks."

Furthermore, as a teacher's college, students enjoyed free tuition, meal and board by the policy at the time to encourage enrollment and training of school teachers, which was suffering a huge shortage. By accepting such an offer, graduates were required to accept their assignments and serve as teachers.

Fu Ping feared losing her city residency so much that she chose to not fulfill her obligation by faking a mental illness. For justification, she might have made up the entire tale of her thesis research on infanticide.

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