Saturday, April 6, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Early Factory Jobs

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping chronicled her experiences of working in factories throughout her early youth years. On Pages 137-149, she detailed her factory working from the age of 10 to 18:
When I was ten, several months after the attack on the soccer field and two years prior to the appearance of Uncle W and Nanjing Mother, I received my first factory assignment. A local Communist organization, in accordance with Mao's teachings, made arrangements for all the children of black elements in our area to be reeducated by workers. I was assigned to a stie about an hour's walk away from the NUAA dormitory. I would work there six days a week for six hours a day, with a two-hour break each day for a study session of Mao's teachings with other children.
I built radios for almost a year, completing on average forty to fifty a day... The following year, Wang was transferred to another department of the factory, where he would be making speedometers for cars. I went with him; it seemed we had become a team.
I went back to factory work in 1971 at age thirteen, after having spent some time completing mandatory military service.
From age fifteen to eighteen, I worked on and off at a factory that made car parts.
On Pages 88-92, she said (when she was about 12):
I had recently been assigned to a job at a nearby factory, and the next morning I rose early to walk to work. Hong went to a study session with kids her own age.
For the next several days, we followed the same pattern. In the morning, I would go to my factory job and Hong would go to her study session.
From then on, Uncle W and corresponded regularly, swapping letters several times each month. I wrote him about daily life, my factory job, and Hong when she got into trouble or amazed me by quickly picking up new skills.
Then, on Page 128, when she was 14:
I still had no life outside of caring for my family and working at factories, but political pressure against black elements lessened.
And finally, in 1976 as a grown woman, she was working in a factory when Cultural Revolution ended (Page 225):
I notfified my factory boss that I was heading off for two weeks, and he gave his approval.
For all this work, she accomplished quite a lot really early on (Page 84):
My life took another turn for the better shortly after my twelfth birthday. By then, I knew how to forage, grow, and cook my own vegetables, raise chicken, spin silk thread, build radios, march in military formation, remove leeches, operate milling machines, harvest rice, navigate cities without a map, and survive in wildness.
She also recounted the child labor years in several of her media interviews. For example, on Leopard Lopate Show on Jaunary 14, 2013:

Lopate: And then at 10 you were sent to work in a factory?
Fu: I started factory pretty early, I think even at 8. Soon after. A few months after.
Lopate: Were you getting any schooling at this time?
Fu: Not official, not the academic study. I did learn a lot by doing things.
Lopate: Well, what kind of factories were you working in?
Fu: When I was 8, I was there peeling plastic covers to separate them and then I started to build radios around 10.
The Changing Story:
After her tale of forced labor being widely criticized, Fu Ping issued the following "clarification" on March 6, 2013:
Why did you say you were in a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution? 
I did not say or write that I was in a labor camp; I stated that I lived for 10 years in a university dormitory on the NUAA campus. Chinese children don't get put in labor camps. I also did not say I was a factory worker. I said Mao wanted us to study and learn from farmers, soldiers and workers. 
The Debunking:
There is really no need to debunk this one. Either she was lying throughout her book and her interviews, or she was lying in her clarification with "I also did not say I was a factory worker".

Chinese children "don't get put in labor camps", they don't work in factories when they were 8 or 10 years old either, Jay Leno's frequent jokes notwithstanding. Did Fu Ping actually work in factories? The answer is yes, after she had graduated from high school. But that's another interesting fact that deserves a separate post of its own.

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