Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling

Chai was one of the student leaders in Tiananmen Square June 4, 1989. She became the second most wanted person in China. After months in hiding, she escaped through Hong Kong to France. In the U.S. For twenty years, Chai tried to write her account of that fateful day. It was not until December of 2009 that Chai found what she was looking for in Jesus. Now, mother of three and wife of a loving American husband, her pen flowed.
Chai begins with the story of her family. Her father born in 1935, the Japanese invading the village in 1937, civil war after the Japanese left in 1945, Communist victory by 1949, joining the PLA, becoming an army doctor. Her mother, peasant born but finishing high school, then medical school, becoming an army doctor, marriage, children (Mao encouraged big families in the 60s). Their family, an army family, was mostly unaffected by the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.
Chai went to Beijing the first time in 1983 as a seventeen year old, to attend Peking University. There were only fifty spots allowed for her province, with millions applying. She was accepted. She fought for and was able to major in psychology.
China was shaking off the effects of the Cultural Revolution. She witnessed some of the fledgling democracy demonstrations, asking for continued reform. She tells of her pregnancies (and abortions), her mother's nervous breakdown, and her own marriage. She and her husband got involved in the student democracy movement.
Chai takes us through the students meetings, the hunger strike, martial law, being the commander of the Defend Tiananmen Square Headquarters, the speech she made ( snippets used later in a documentary to discredit her), not foreseeing the massacre, then the gunshots and the tanks rolling.
Chai and her husband escaped, traveling south, hearing official reports denying the massacre. They stopped at a Wuhan University and she made a recorded statement, telling the truth of the massacre, later heard on Voice of America. After ten months of hiding, an underground student movement helped them get to France. In Paris her husband separated from her, intoxicated with freedom. She was asked to go to the U.S. for a democracy ceremony and was celebrated. She was awarded a visiting scholarship to Princeton. Upon graduation she managed to find a consulting position and the Clinton administration arranged for her family to come to America. When her consulting position ended she went to graduate school, obtaining an MBA from Harvard in 1998, and founded an internet company. She became a Christian in December of 2009. She founded All Girls Allowed, an organization to help girls in China, in 2010. She has been nominated twice for the Noble Peace Prize.
She ends her book with her struggle to reveal all of her abortions and receive God's forgiveness.

This is a compelling biography. I remember the news broadcasts and the horror of that day. It was very interesting to read of the feelings and actions of the students involved. A couple of times the narrative bogged down but certainly not enough to keep me from highly recommending this book. You will gain insight into China and be encouraged to pray for those there.

Tyndale House Publishers, 368 pages, publisher information

See:www.allgirlsallowed.org to watch a short video and more information.
See: www.aheartforfreedom.com to sign up for email updates.

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review.
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