Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
by Maria Nadeau
Jason in return squeezed my hand, and I realized that must be why he didn't say anything to me. I glanced up to see Jason smiling at me, and I could tell that he was really looking forward to this. Both of his parents grew up in China, and they were lucky to be able to move to Canada before he was born. His parents don't talk to him about how their life was, and I know he wants to learn more about his heritage. As for myself, I've lived in Canada all my life, and I know very little about Communism and China's culture. Thinking about this made me wonder where Liu Binyan was.
Suddenly the doors swung open, and in walked Liu Binyan. He looked older than I imagined him to be, but his eyes were kind. Humbly he walked to the front of the room and noticed Henry sitting in the front row. After they had exchanged a sullen smile, Liu began to speak. First he introduced himself, and the title of his new memoir. He mentioned that this was his first time speaking to students in Canada although he had talked to many students in the States. He then thanked Professor Marcus for bringing him to Toronto.
Liu began to speak about how he has been a political outcast twice. He talked about the fate that pushed him to North America. "Many Chinese people who've been in my position haven't been this lucky," he said. I wondered what he meant by this. Does this mean that the majority of people who do not endorse the government's beliefs in China are killed? Wow, if this happened in Canada, we'd lose more than half of our population! My mind was racing, and I had thousands of questions to ask him.
Liu Binyan must have read my mind because he said he likes students to ask him lots of questions, so they can fully understand life in China. Henry's hand immediately shot up. "My family recently moved here from Hong Kong, because the Communist Party is allowed to take over the Colony in the year 1997," he said. "Everything you have been fighting for seems as if it had been already lost."
Liu thought carefully before he answered. "I understand what you are saying, but I don't feel that way," he said. "I strongly believe that China will rebel. The students especially fight for the rights that they correctly know everyone deserves." Liu spoke with such exhilarating passion, it made me hope that he was right. To me I felt compelled to agree with Henry, yet it's hard for one person to decide the future of a nation. As for Jason, he seemed to be more moved by what Liu had said, than by what Henry had said. Jason proceeded to ask Liu if he felt guilty for living in a free country, while the rest of his family and friends have to live in such an unjust place. I looked at Jason and thought this must be how he felt, the poor guy.
Liu's face became sad. "Yes I do," he said. The best place for kite-flying is Tiananmen Square, but now only military helicopters are being flown. The people can't even fly kites there. I would like very much to fly kites with my grandchildren there." How awful this must be for the children; they might not even have a childhood. Liu's answer must have triggered the same emotions in Kolin, because he asked the dissident writer what his childhood was like. "It was different from how the children grow up here in North America," Liu replied. "There is little money in China; many children have to work. There is not much time for play, not even kite flying."
"Since there is not a lot of time for the children to be kids, is there time for education," Professor Marcus asked with concern."Does the economics of China affect their schooling?" "Well, yes, the economy of China definitely plays an important role in education," Liu replied with deep sorrow. "If a family has no money you work instead of going to school. There are universities and colleges, but they're only located in the main cities. Education is very rare, and strict."
I almost felt ashamed to be here at York with the assistance of the government, which is something I'm sure never happens in China. I decided to ask Liu what the arts are like in China since that is what I'm studying. His reply was unfortunately what I expected: "Communism does not accept the same things that the West does. They do have things such as music and dance, but it is not a freedom of expression as it is here. It is extremely controlled." I don't understand how art could be dictated, I thought. I definitely see his point that China needs to change. How can Communism possibly work for an individual's spiritual needs? I just hope that they can change.
Sandy raised her delicate hand and asked what I was wondering, "Do you believe that China will eventually become a democracy?" Liu Binyan's face exploded with passion as he answered his last question."Yes, I do," he said "It is my dream. The nation needs to change. We are ready to pay the price to liberate ourselves. We have been fighting for a hundred years." He brilliantly finished with a statement that touched me: "I have survived, and hope to live to the end of the twentieth century and see the light of hope over china."
All the students applauded him, and we stood up as he left the theater. As he left, it occurred to me that he is socially awkward; he seemed to be able to talk to us on behalf of China yet he lacked a strong sense of self. I also thought that this man is not just a dreamer, he is a humble dreamer. His dream is not for his benefit, but the benefit of millions of people's freedom, and their eternal happiness.
Liu Binyan. A Higher Kind of Loyalty. Translated by Zhu Hong. New York:
Editors' note: Maria Nadeau's article is an imaginative response to Liu's book.
Copyright © 1995 by the author. Information from this article should be attributed to the author.