Lijia Zhang

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The Orphans of China’s Economic Miracle

In the spring of 2015, 13-year-old Huang Kailong had just skipped a grade, from fifth to seventh, and her future sparkled with promise. Then she ran away from home. In a letter to her parents, Kailong explained the reason for leaving: She felt unloved.

Kailong grew up in Jidao, a picturesque village in Guizhou Province, one of the least developed in China. In her letter, she reminded her parents that they had left her with an aunt when she was just a year old. During the bulk of her childhood, her parents would go away for about four months every year to chop sugar cane in Guangdong Province, and they’d leave her with different relatives, an arrangement she had resented.…  Seguir leyendo »

There was an ear-splitting whistle and Kong Ning, a young supervising officer from Beijing, saw blood spurt from the bodies of the 34 prisoners, all men in their 20s and 30s, kneeling in a row in front of her. One man’s head was blown off completely. She collapsed on the muddy ground.

Ms. Kong was traumatized by the executions, which she watched over on a bitterly cold day in November 1983, when China’s first wave of “strike-hard” campaigns against rising crime was in full swing. After the event, she quit her job and became a lawyer in the hope of defending people unjustly accused of crime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sex Abuse and China's Children

When I was 13, living in the outskirts of Nanjing, my math teacher molested all the girls in our class, including me. Under the pretense of checking my work, he would lean over me, his face so close that I could smell his garlic breath, and he’d move his hand up my shirt, touching my chest.

Apart from trying to avoid him, we didn’t take any action. We knew what he was doing was wrong, but it never occurred to us to report him. A teacher in a Chinese classroom holds tremendous authority over students, and we didn’t even know the term “sexual abuse.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Most dissidents risk the fate of falling into obscurity and irrelevance after leaving China to live in exile.

It happened to Wei Jingsheng, one of the most prominent Chinese dissidents, who moved to the United States in 1997. His calls for democracy once inspired so many in and outside of China. Not anymore.

When my friend Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer activist, escaped house arrest a year ago and was finally allowed to leave for law studies in the United States, I worried that the curse of exile would befall him, too.

But on my recent trip to Chen Guangcheng’s hometown in rural Shandong, I saw that his spirit lives on — not only in the memories of people he has helped, many of whom have now become activists themselves, but also through Chen’s regular Internet contact with local activists.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two decades ago, China's largest pro-democracy protests ended when military tanks rolled toward Tiananmen Square and troops opened fire on the crowds. For this anniversary, the Op-Ed editors asked four writers, who were students or working at the time, to reflect back on the event.

1.- China’s Forgotten Revolution. By Yu Hua.
June 4, 1989, means little to young people.

2.- Dance With Democracy. By Yiyun Li.
After the crackdown, fear trumped friendship.

3.- 'Here Come The Workers'. By Lijia Zhang.
Notes from the protests outside Beijing.

4.- Exiled To English. By Ha Jin.
Why I left my native language behind.

When I think about 1989, the date I remember most clearly is May 28, a week before the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. That was the day I organized a major demonstration of factory workers in Nanjing, hundreds of miles south of Beijing.

The reform-minded Hu Yaobang, who had been forced out of his job as Communist Party general secretary by hard-liners, had died a month earlier. When the government rejected their requests for his rehabilitation, Beijing students began marching toward and gathering in Tiananmen, demanding greater freedom and democracy. Their actions were like a match thrown onto kindling; soon students from all over the country took to the streets.…  Seguir leyendo »