ESCAPE FROM CHINA: The Long Journey from Tiananmen to Freedom
Zhang Boli, Po-Li Chang, Boli Zhang, , trans. from the Chinese by Kwee Kian Low. . Washington Square, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-3160-6
One of the prominent student leaders of the democracy movement so brutally crushed in Tiananmen Square 13 years ago, Zhang spent a harrowing two years as a fugitive in rural northeastern China before finding asylum in the U.S. and eventually becoming a Christian priest (and prominent speaker) in Los Angeles. Zhang's searing memoir—incisive, fast-paced and full of textured details—begins with the collective experience of the democracy movement. He recalls the cultural and political atmosphere at Beijing University during the spring of 1989; the circle of ebullient Chinese intellectuals passionate about social reforms; the hunger strikes; the negotiations; and finally the bloody terror of the crackdown. Turning to his two-year-long attempt to evade the Chinese authorities, Zhang presents his exploits modestly, but one is awed at every turn by his steely nerve and street savvy, and by the compassion that he liberally accords humans, animals and the land that gave him shelter. Most moving, however, are the portraits of the ordinary people of northeastern China among whom he hid. These peasants, laborers and fishermen, with whom the incognito Zhang shared the arduous fight for subsistence, were often illiterate and far removed from Tiananmen physically and culturally, yet they understood Zhang's personal plight and its significance for the country. Through these sketches, Zhang memorably shows the real people who make the fight for democracy in China worthwhile. 8 pages of b&w photos.
Reviewed on: 04/15/2002