Prospective readers of A Heart for Freedom (Synergy’s Book of the Month) should probably be forewarned that reading Chai Ling’s story runs the risk of being swept up in her passion for freedom and unable to sidestep your own responsibility to do something about what is wrong in our world. It’s amazing what one person can do, once she makes up her mind to act. I hope her book has that impact on all of us.
Chai Ling offers a rare intimate behind-the-scenes look at the Tiananmen Square student protest and the tragic aftermath as Ling recounts those history changing days—not as a journalist, but as a key leader of the student movement. With the growing significance of China in today’s world, her remarkable story gives us vital insight into this significant moment in China’s history and to the suffering, courage, and sheer determination that characterized the students in that movement.
I loved observing how Ling, herself, evolves and grows from start to end of this book and how her story bridges the old world of her foot-bound grandmother and the twenty-first century high tech world of Jenzabar. Born in China, Ling is a disappointment to her father for not being a son. Conditioned to defer to the men in her life (and her father heads the list) and to derive her meaning and value from their approval, Ling awakens to her own deep sense of calling in the Tiananmen Square protests and to her responsibility to do something about the suffering and injustice in the world—a responsibility that is reinforced and galvanized years later when she embraces faith in Christ.
She doesn’t airbrush her story, but is unflinchingly truthful about her own flaws and failings. Every situations she faces pushes her outside of her comfort zone—Tiananmen Square, life on the run, starting over on her own in a foreign country, launching a business, and her efforts today on behalf of China’s daughters under the government’s One-Child Policy. Ling doesn’t hold back. The results are seen, not only her achievements and the benefits that come to others, but also in her flourishing as a human being. I’d like to think her story will awaken that same sense of calling and urgency, the same refusal to hold back, in every woman who reads Ling’s story.
But perhaps the most unexpected message of this book centers on the subject of the One-Child Policy and abortion in particular. The statistics for China are not only alarming, but difficult to absorb—not just that every 2.5 seconds a baby is aborted, that 86% of Chinese women have had abortions (multiple abortions for 52% of women ages 20-35), or that abortions exceed live births 101 to 100, but that in the wake of all those government mandated abortions, every day 500 women in China commit suicide.
China is losing her daughters—both the little ones and the grown ones—at appalling rates. When you realize how much good one of China’s daughters is accomplishing, the loss of all the others is incalculable. Ling’s poignant discussion of the complex subject of abortion points us all (especially Evangelical Christians, of which she is one) to a more compassionately thoughtful and redemptive approach to this complex subject. For that, we owe her a great debt.
So read her story, if you dare!