Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Thursday, July 03, 2003

I will never understand how people can still stand up and not denounce Communism, there is always some excuse but in truth the daily horrors of life in places like Communist China re-affirm the horrific nature of the movement.

The promise was forged with a hug and a handshake in the corner of Ross Allen's small apartment in China.

"Will you please tell my story?" Yao Thiu asked Ross, speaking softly so his voice wouldn't be detected by the hidden microphone that was standard equipment in every visiting American professor's apartment. "I want people to know the truth about what so many Chinese have been through."

"Of course, Yao," Ross replied. "You're my friend. I'll do it, I promise."

Thirteen years later, Ross pulls up a chair at Salt Lake City's Rodizio Grill and wonders about the fate of the Chinese English literature professor he befriended in 1990.

"I don't know whether he's dead or alive," he says, over a Free Lunch of grilled ham and pineapple, "but I do know that I've been feeling guilty about that promise. It's weighed on my conscience for years. It's time I kept the pact I made to a friend."

Because of new restrictions put into place after the Tiannanmen tragedy, the students in his classes and other faculty members were afraid to say much. All except one. Yao Thiu, then in his mid-70s, took a liking to Ross and began smuggling him handwritten notes about his experiences under communist rule.

"He felt he could trust me and was obsessed with telling his story," Ross, now 75, recalls. "Pretty soon, he was coming to the apartment, and we'd turn up the music and sit in the corner and talk. I was astounded by the stories I heard from Yao. He was lucky to be alive."

An English literature professor, Yao was arrested during the "cultural revolution" in 1966 and condemned as a rightist because he was educated and had friends who were foreigners. Separated from his family, he was sent to a slave labor camp, where he was beaten and nearly starved to death, says Ross.

"Yao was imprisoned with other intellectuals, and the guards would haul them out to be on exhibit," he says. "They were beaten by villagers and had manure smeared on their faces. Some of his friends were executed while he watched."

Yao was finally released, but when he returned home, his family was gone. He was eventually reunited with his wife but never saw his children again. He quietly returned to teaching but was once again persecuted, says Ross, when a group of 30 students dragged him and other professors to a courtyard, lashed them with whips and demanded that they "confess their guilt" for teaching capitalistic thoughts.

How many more went into those camps and never came out?

< email | 7/03/2003 12:52:00 PM | link

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