Baiqiao Tang is one of China’s most influential modern dissidents. Tang’s name became legendary during the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Over the past 21 years, he has remained on the front lines of the Chinese pro-democracy movement, where he has vowed to keep fighting until the dream of a free China is realized.
In 1989, Tang was a student leader organizing pro-democracy demonstrations in Hunan province. On June 4 of that year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quashed the movement Tang helped to lead in the now infamous Tiananmen Square massacre. During the nationwide crackdown that ensued against "counterrevolutionaries," the CCP issued a warrant for Tang’s arrest. Tang recalls in detail his shock upon seeing his face plastered on a "wanted" poster at a train station. He attempted to flee to Macau but was captured before he could cross the border. In prison, Tang witnessed and endured medieval tortures that no human should ever experience. Eventually, he escaped to America with help from the United States government.
Now living in exile in New York City, Baiqiao Tang has become a living legend among the millions of people worldwide who fight for a free and open society. China’s recent, stratospheric rise to prominence on the world stage has brought its government under increased pressure to account for its notorious human rights atrocities inflicted on its own people.
This unique, timely, suspenseful, and ultimately inspiring memoir will resonate with people from all walks of life and from all backgrounds who care about human rights and the future of free society.
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About the Author
Baiqiao Tang (New York, NY) is the chair of the China Peace and Democracy Federation and the author of Anthems of Defeat (Human Rights Watch, 1992) and numerous articles in such publications as Columbia University’s Journal of the School of International and Public Affairs, The Secret China, Liberty Times, Open magazine, and the Epoch Times. He has also been a special commentator for Radio Free Asia, New Dynasty TV, and other programs. He is frequently interviewed by national and international media, including ABC, NBC, the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and other media outlets.
Damon DiMarco (New York, NY) is the author of Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11, with a foreword by 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean, and Shock and Awe: Soldiers’ Voices from the Front Lines in Iraq. He is the coauthor with Roy Simmons of Out of Bounds: Coming Out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction, and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet. Mr. DiMarco is also an actor. He has written two books on acting, and has taught the subject at colleges, trade schools, and in private sessions.
Read an Excerpt
MY TWO CHINASThe Memoir of a Chinese Counterrevolutionary
By Baiqiao Tang Damon DiMarco
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2011 Baiqiao Tang and Damon DiMarco
All right reserved.
While I was a prisoner in Changsha Number One Jail, my fellow inmates told me this story. It happened in early 1977. Winter gripped the city of Changsha with talons of ice. A drunk spent the night in a city park. He was shivering, hungry, and high on cheap wine. Exhausted, he made a bed for himself by unfolding scraps of old newspaper and spreading them out on the ground. Then he lay down and went to sleep.
A couple of policemen found him the next morning. They laughed and kicked him awake and told the drunk to hop to his feet and get moving, so he did. Wiping sleep from his eyes, the drunk staggered a few feet away. Behind him, a policeman shouted, "Stop!" The drunk turned around to see what the problem was.
The policemen were standing over his makeshift bed and staring at the ground. The drunk looked too and his eyes went wide. A crumpled picture of Mao Zedong looked up from the scraps of newspaper left on the frozen grass. The drunk must have been lying on it all night.
"I'm sorry," he blurted. "No! Please! I'm sorry! Don't!"
The police ran toward him. They beat him, cuffed him, and took him away to Changsha Number One Jail, where he was befriended by prisoners who, many years later, became my cell mates.
"Mao had died a few months before in September 1976," said one of my fellow inmates. "In order to keep the people in line, the Party ran Mao's picture in the papers all the time. Remember Mao Zedong! said the articles. Obey the Party! Uphold your Great Leader's legacy. Do it for society. Do it for your province. Do it for your family. Do it for your country!"
I took a good look at these men. They were old and toothless. Their arms and legs were stringy, their bellies bloated. They suffered from malnutrition and stayed alive on cigarettes. Most hadn't seen their families in years and knew they would die in prison. Honestly, some had died already even though their bodies lived on. Chinese prisons can have that effect. They empty you out, tossing the kernel of life aside, leaving nothing but hull and shell. Some of those men had lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution. They had the scars to prove it. On their bodies, livid welts, and in their eyes, furtive glances. Like beaten dogs, they shied away. Their gaits were crippled, movements crabbed from broken bones improperly healed.
"What happened to the drunk?" I asked.
"Oh," said an inmate. "You know. He was taken to court and found guilty of being a counterrevolutionary. After which they took him outside and shot him."
For a moment, our cell went quiet.
"You know," began another old inmate, "I think that drunk was lucky. They would have treated the bastard worse had Mao Zedong still been alive."
He grinned at us, revealing a smile of gums.
I grew up in Hunan Province, a region known for its outspoken people. In China, you will often hear, "The Hunan food is spicy, but her people are even hotter." True. We Hunanese take pride in our strength of will and character. We drink strong wine. We argue and fight. We do not hold our feelings in. Some people like to call us juelu, a Mandarin word meaning stubborn donkey. In Hunan, this is a compliment. Why not? We call a person stubborn when he stands up for himself. Fights for his convictions. Elevates his ideals.
Take my grandfather, for instance. He died when I was very young but I still remember his pride. He was old and blind, and he used to say, "What is a person who will not fight? Who cannot make a stand? Show me that person, I'll show you a dog! There's no one like that in Hunan! What comes from Hunan is good for China!"
Then he would ask me to fetch his pipe, which I would always do very fast since I loved to watch the old man smoke. His withered lips would form an O, and scented rings would pop forth smelling of cloves and cinnamon. The rings would travel a certain distance, undulating wreaths of smoke. I loved them but learned not to grow too attached. I knew that they lasted only a moment. After that, they would disappear, as my grandfather soon did. As all of us do.
My grandfather's favorite poem was "Li sao," which means Sorrow of Departure. It was written by the famous poet Qu Yuan (ca. 340 BCE–278 BCE). Sometimes the old man would pick up his chin and quote in his trembling voice.
I gaze afar, oh! 'mid clovers white and wait for our tryst, oh! in the twilight. Among the reeds, oh! can birds be free? What can a net do, oh! atop a tree? White clover grows, oh! beside the creek; I long for you, oh! but dare not speak!
I remember being so young that I didn't know what a poet was. I asked the old man to tell me.
"A poet?" asked my grandfather. He smiled and laughed. His dead eyes stared straight ahead like twin silver coins set into his face. "Well, my boy! A poet is a person who speaks the truth. Who appreciates things. Who looks for beauty everywhere. And of course he smiles a lot."
"I don't think I know any poets," I said.
My grandfather sighed. "Of course you don't. We don't have many around anymore. The Party does not like them."
Even though I was very small, I knew what the Party was. Zhongguo Gongchan Dang, otherwise known as the CCP, or the Chinese Communist Party. I remember noticing how adult people's faces always changed when they spoke the Party's name. Their mouths would compress into tight, bloodless lines. Bright eyes would fall at once to the ground, losing their luster like pearls cast in dirt.
The subject caused me confusion since my father was in the Party. He worked as a teacher and a principal of schools, a very wise man who was greatly respected. I loved him very much. But I noticed that even his attitude changed whenever he mentioned the Party. A garrulous man, his body would stiffen. The tone of his voice would grow hard, more reserved. It was a frightening transformation, and one I cared not to ponder much in childhood.
"Tell me more about Qu Yuan," I said.
My grandfather laughed and tapped his old knee, as thin as a withered branch. This was my official cue to climb gently into his lap, so I did. "The poet Qu Yuan," he said. "Another great man from Hunan Province! Qu Yuan lived a long time ago. He was a minister to the king. In fact, that's where all of his troubles began."
"Tell me!" I said.
My grandfather stared into space for a moment. "Well," he said. "The king had many advisers, you know. Most had gained their positions by telling the king what he wanted to hear, a common tactic in government. One time, the ministers told the king to oppose the neighboring state of Qin. Qu Yuan alone objected. He thought this notion was foolish. Opposition would lead to war, for which there was no cause. 'Oh King,' said Qu Yuan. 'Do what is best for your people. Ally with Qin and be happy!' The other advisers were not very pleased. A war can generate profit, you know. Lots and lots of money. The advisers hoped to get very rich, so none of them changed their positions."
I remember being breathless. Wide-eyed. All this talk of kings and wars was acting on me like wine, boiling my blood, making me want to hear more. "So what happened next?" I asked.
"The other advisers drove Qu Yuan from the palace and chased him into the wilderness. The king did as they said and went to war with Qin. There were many great battles and thousands of people died. Qin soldiers went to Qu Yuan's village and slaughtered many of his relatives. But worse: Qin won the war. The king was killed, but his ministers got promoted. Yes. The king of Qin gave them piles of gold and nice, new uniforms to wear on holidays and special occasions. And that, as they say, was that."
"But what about Qu Yuan?" I asked.
"He was so upset that he found a great big rock and held that rock to his chest when he waded into the Miluo River and drowned himself."
"He died?!" I started to cry. "But why, Grandfather? Why?"
"He did it to protest corruption, Xiao Tang."
"But why did he have to kill himself? Why not continue to live and fight?"
My grandfather's face turned very sad. His dead eyes focused on nothing. "Because, my child," he said. "When no one hears the truth anymore, or looks for beauty everywhere. When no one appreciates things, or smiles a lot, the world is simply not a place for poets anymore."
My father's name was Tang Rentong. In Mandarin, this means "Mercy United." As a teacher and a principal of schools, he believed that knowledge was heaven's gift, more precious by far than gold or jewels. "In this world, Xiao Tang," my father would say, "knowledge has no price."
Xiao means "little" in Mandarin. My father was Tang. Therefore, I was Little Tang, ever his diminutive. Though sometimes he would call me zaofang, a word that means "rebel," and more suited my nature.
I loved him more than I have skill to communicate. Quite often, to earn my father's attention, I would recount the opinions and stories I had learned on my grandfather's knee. My hope was that my father would see how worldly I was becoming, that even at five or six years old, I was a facile conversationalist. For instance, one time I told him, "Father! Hunan is the greatest province in China!"
My father was seated behind his desk, writing a letter. His pen stopped moving. He peered at me over the rims of his glasses. "Oh?" he said. "And why is that?"
"Because," I said. "Hunan has given birth to many great men, like the poet Qu Yuan."
My father regarded me for a moment. Then he returned his eyes to his letter. His pen started moving again. New characters lined up in rows on the paper. Meanings couched in contortions of ink. "That's very true, Xiao Tang," he said. "Hunan boasts many great heroes, and the poet Qu Yuan is one. Qu Yuan loved his country like no one else."
"I know! He drowned himself!"
"That's right, because he knew right from wrong. Qu Yuan was a patriot of ideals, rather than country. But have a care, my son. There are other sides to this story."
I frowned, sensing a lecture approaching.
"Hunan gave birth to many great men: the poet Qu Yuan. Cai Lun, the man who invented paper. Qi Baishi, the famous painter. Zeng Guofan, the famous general. But Hunan gave birth to other men, too. Some who were not so good for China."
I was young and bold and very proud and itching for a debate. "Who?" I demanded. "Who from Hunan was not so good for China?"
My father smiled and kept writing. "Mao Zedong," he said.
Excerpted from MY TWO CHINAS by Baiqiao Tang Damon DiMarco Copyright © 2011 by Baiqiao Tang and Damon DiMarco. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Youth....................23
Part 2 Student....................45
Part 3 Protestor....................69
Part 4 Fugitive....................107
Part 5 Counterrevolutionary....................141
Part 6 Exile....................191
Part 7 "Wu Guo Ji," Man without a Country....................251
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
China is a distant country,a country of old rules and strange laws. It's difficult to understand the country not only for people of western countries but also for people like me born and living in China. This book can let us know many things in the back of China,I think.
I was very pleased to see that Tang Baiqiao's autobiography, 'My Two Chinas' has been published. Since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, for more than 20 years, the pro-democracy movement in exile has been a spectacle confronted by challenges. Too many people accept the Communist Party (CCP) propaganda, allowing the CCP to speak for the populace; too many people have lost touch with their conscience; too many people have sold out to the CCP. The movement has many ostensible statesmen, sinologists, strategists, pundits, and prominent human rights advocates. But Tang Baiqiao is truly all of these things, a man who did not stray nor sell out, and a man who has been steadfast to stay with the lonely struggle -- an indefatigable brave warrior who revolts against the CCP tyranny as a leading Chinese dissident. 'My Two Chinas' vividly tells Tang's story across more than 20 years, following the difficult course of his life as he struggles indomitably for freedom, democracy, and human rights. His book prompts the reader to awaken to the truth, and evokes gratitude and admiration. The world has recently been inspired by the 'people power' transformation of the Middle East and North Africa. World attention is due to focus on China once again, as we expect 'people power' to disintegrate the tyranny of the CCP. Given the size of China, this is humanity's largest worthy cause -- to change the leadership of China away from the CCP, humanity's largest disaster. Hopefully, given attention from a world-wide readership, this autobiography will show the brutality of the Chinese Communist Party, and also the strength and the hope that arises from the Chinese populace's revolt against the CCP tyranny. Hopefully, the reader will support the Chinese people in withdrawing from the Communist Party, and in the worthy cause of disintegrating the CCP. In this way, people power can truly lead to a better world. Dayong Li Chief Director of Global Service Center for Quitting Chinese Communist Party
My Two Chinas is a book that works on many levels. It's a classic coming of age tale, a lesson in how the love of freedom can be found in the darkest of places, a harrowing adventure, and a yes, even a love story. Mostly it's just a great read and I finished on in a single flight to Shanghai. It is also an amazingly timely book as we see a second wave of freedom and people-power breaking out across the globe. A new generation of young people are standing up and declaring themselves fully human in the very same way Baiqiao and his compatriots did. Some of them will succeed, some of them will fail, and many of them may die. Reading My Two Chinas helps readers who have never lived outside the comfortable world of liberty understand why such personal sacrifice is offered, regardless of the outcome. My Two Chinas should be required reading for every European or American businessperson or politician heading to Chengdu or Shenzhen to make a deal. Baiqiao Tang and Damon DiMarco have given Westerners a gift of moral context we must not ignore: The profits we make off of China' state capitalism and the cheap goods we enjoy have had a very real human cost and China's power structure has not changed in any meaningful way since the tragic events of 1989. It is only the Party's marketing department has been vastly improved. The China we visit today or see on the news is a message as carefully crafted as any Disney attraction. The paint is replaced daily with censorship, repression, and intimidation. Tang and DiMarco peel back that facade and illuminate the darkness behind with the powerful light of one young man's courage. The smiling faces of China's Communist leaders will never look real to you again and I promise you that when your plane takes off from Pudong you'll look back and see a very different China than the one you thought you knew. p.s. When you escape the "People's Republic", please be sure to leave this book behind in the hope that it might shed a little light into the gulag. The very fact you know doing so might get you in trouble, tells you how just right Mr. Tang is about his home country and why you too must offer a small sacrifice for humanity.
This book is truly amazing. I recommend this book for anyone in the world to read, especially if you have an interest in freedom. Baiqiao Tang is truly a remarkable human being and this book is written so well, it is very difficult to put down. Please read this book.
Couldn't take my eyes off of this book. Truly inspiring. Gives a picture of China we need to know, especially us living in the West so blind about contemporary China. China has been ruled by a ruthless regime for too long, and will see true heroes coming out of its hell, hopefully this story will help us understand better and most of all Care! Tang is probably one of these heroes!
This is one of most inspiriting and interesting books I've read in my life. I just couldn't set it down. You must read it. I'm glad I bought this book and read it. 5 stars!