BY CAROL CROSSED
Chai Ling's book A Heart for Freedom (Tyndale House Publishers, 2011) is a clearly written treatise on Ling's journey from a traditional Chinese family, to Beijing student activist, to American Harvard-educated capitalist, to faith-filled penitent. The lengthy middle part of her book assumes the reader knows more about Chinese Communism than this reader did. Ling struggled at the near cost of her life to make Communism democratic, or at least respectable, to give the people minimum rights under a regime that put the state above the individual. As one of the only student women leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, Ling commandeered the hunger strike and attempted to maintain a sense of equal voice and non-violence in the midst of the government's absolute denial of both.
Ling portrays honestly her "survivor guilt." Her harrowing escape out of China and into Boston forces her to face in a realistic way her past and how her youth and idealism masks her culpability in former relationships.
These unveil themselves in a painfully candid revelation about abortion, not only those that are forced upon women in China, but her own abortions. Her unraveling of China's one-child policy and its conflagration with gendercide, or the killing of baby girls in utero, brings her to a place where she can accept and understand the meaning for her own existence. It is to save Chinese mothers and their daughters from the inherent cultural and political abuse that has been their destiny.
The word gendercide is underlined with a red squiggly line by my computer. It doesn't even recognize the word. This cultural phenomenon, introduced by the ultrasound machine, enhances an existing historical bias against females. At a recent talk given by Ling's foundation All Girls Allowed, Ling was compared to our own foremother Susan B. Anthony. It is not an overstatement. Ling is indeed the innovative, courageous, justice-oriented womens' rights advocate of our day.
Carol Crossed is president of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Massachusetts.