A few months ago, Voice of America put out a call to listeners and viewers: Was there a moment, something you heard, experienced or read that changed your perception of the Communist Party? We have compiled a selection from the letters received. In his letter, a former son of a high Communist Party cadre and a decades-long Voice of America listener said, “It is very meaningful to revisit the path of awakening we have traveled now, because the foolish closed-door policy of those days has come back to haunt us.”
Away from the lies, this regime will struggle to exist
Narrator: Wang Sheng, Voice of America listener
For a long time, from my childhood until I became an adult, I believed that “Chiang Kai-shek hid in Emei Mountain during the eight years of the war”, that the Kuomintang did not fire a single shot at the Japanese, and that the Chinese Communist Party led the war to drive out the Japanese. The diary records my father’s experiences fighting with the Kuomintang army during the time he studied radio communication technology. My father had killed Japanese in battle. Later, I also learned that my aunt, an officer under General Feng Yuxiang, had also been fighting Japan during the war, and the old man still bore the scars of the war years.
I always thought that the Korean War started when South Korea, the United States and the United Nations crossed the 38th parallel to invade North Korea and try to destroy China, and that China was forced to “cross the Yalu River to protect the peace and defend the motherland”, not knowing that our leaders were sacrificing so many people to take chestnuts from the fire for Soviet Russia.
I remember when I was young during the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, I saw a cartoon in a periodical called “Handbook of Current Events” that made a deep impression: it was a conversation between a Chinese child and an American child. The Chinese child was fat and white, while the white American child was thin and sobbing. The Chinese child asked the American child, “After communalization, I went to a communal kindergarten and don’t live with my parents anymore. The American child replied, “Dad lost his job, and I am with my mom and dad every day drinking tap water to feed my hunger ……”
I spent the first half of my life accepting the promise of a communist world of freedom, wealth and beauty on the other side and naively believing that those endless political purges, political persecutions and massacres were an unpleasant yet necessary means to a noble end. Whenever the reality differed too much from the official propaganda, I had to resort to rote learning of communist dogma; when I encountered facts that I could not explain, I had to put them out of my mind for a while. But the reality that I experienced over time had a cumulative effect. My parents taught me from an early age to be honest and not to lie, but decades of real life have made it very difficult for me to be such a person. This is a society full of lies, and the regime itself is maintained by lies, and it would be difficult for this regime to exist without lies.
Apollo landed on the moon, but 800 million people were kept in the dark
Narrator: Han Numba (pseudonym), Voice of America listener
During the Cultural Revolution, my father was branded as a “capitalist” and my mother was falsely accused of being a “traitor”, so there was no more laughter in the house, and a sad, desolate atmosphere prevailed everywhere. The radio with shortwave, plugged in earplugs. The radio was full of annoying clichés, empty words, falsehoods, or even more tiresome model plays.
Suddenly, I heard a faint voice that seemed to be reporting on the first human flight to the moon. What? The moon landing? What’s this all about? Who is so scientifically advanced that they have been able to challenge the moon? It wasn’t a joke or a fantasy, was it? My curiosity was so strong that I slowly tuned in to the frequency of the radio at the risk of being branded as an “active counter-revolutionary”. Although the interference was still very loud, I could finally hear in the intervals that it was the Chinese broadcast of the Voice of America, which was about the successful lunar flight of Apollo 11.
Hundreds of millions of people were watching this feat, Tokyo, Hong Kong, even Taipei, Seoul, the streets were full of TV screens, people either at home, or in the streets, could witness this epoch-making event in human history, sharing the achievements of human scientific development in the 1960s, while only 800 million Chinese people were artificially kept in the dark, impervious to the world. A sudden wave of sadness rose in my heart, we are too unfortunate! We are on the same planet, why can’t we enjoy the rights that people in other countries can enjoy? Why can’t we even see and hear the least?
I just felt the sadness rising in my heart expanding, filling my whole body, suffocating. Many years have passed, but the sorrow and indignation of that night have remained deep in my memory, lingering and hard to heal.
I was a stupid “pinky”
Narrator: Anonymous, Voice of America listener
I was a pinko. Now I look back and think how stupid I was. I was born in a rural area, and my family had about three acres of land. My father was seriously ill when I was a child, and my mother took my father around for medical treatment, so I rarely had time to tend to the crops. So the family did not have enough food to eat for sure, but the agricultural tax could not be reduced by a single cent.
Even so, as a young child, I did not change my perception that “the sky and the earth are not as big as the Party’s kindness”. Even when the Olympic Games were held in 2008, I was still proud of myself. In fact, I didn’t feel much in my heart, but when I watched the propaganda on TV every day, I always felt sorry for the Party and the country if I didn’t follow the excitement.
Now I can’t remember exactly how it changed, but one of my deepest impressions is the forced demolition of a farmer’s home, who fought against the demolition team and died under the wheels of the team. The demolition made me realize the irony of the lyrics “The people of a socialist country have a high status”. The people at the bottom of China are lambs to the slaughter, with little protection, and when I think about my childhood experience, I realize that I am living a lie.
Another one is the withdrawal of Google from China. The funny thing is that I didn’t know I was on a LAN and really thought I was connected to the world. Stubbornness made me like to go over the wall and see some content that I couldn’t see inside the wall.
After realizing that I was living under sin and lies, it was rather painful for a while, almost depressed, after all, the three views were turned upside down. But slowly accepted the reality. From the previous cursing Japan, cursing the United States slowly changed to focus on the vulnerable.
The first two years, but also dare to go to QQ groups, WeChat groups to discuss current events, forwarding sarcastic paragraphs. In the past two years, I feel that no one dares to do so, and I feel that the severity of speech control is second only to the Cultural Revolution.
We are like ants, we can be trampled to death with one foot!
Narrator: Issac, Voice of America listener
I was a “self-made man” until 2018 – now also known as a “pinko”.
First and foremost, I was a Christian who embraced my faith in college and was baptized after graduating in 2013. I feel that we are getting better, we are getting more and more legalistic, and our government is getting cleaner and more efficient after several anti-corruption campaigns. The changes in my hometown also made me more delighted, the car became a more common means of transportation in the village, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars are not so much money in the eyes of some people. At that time, I was happy to think that our country would become better and better, and we would live in a more and more relaxed, free and harmonious society.
At that time I was working in Beijing, a company founded by a fellow Christian. People at work often mentioned their dissatisfaction with the government and their mockery of the Communist Party, and I was very upset to hear this at first, thinking that we had a lot of problems, but it was all changing, wasn’t it?
Until 2018, when bad luck suddenly came our way. The church where I met regularly was also closed, for no reason, if any, simply that we were growing too fast and gathering too many people and drawing the attention of certain authorities. I thought for a while that we would become more and more legalistic and institutionalized, that we could achieve freedom of faith in China, but my naiveté was shattered when the church was closed without any legal basis.
There is no rule of law in China, there is only the will of the leaders and the thoughts of the leaders. They have laws, but they are just a veneer, and under that veneer is naked darkness. We, as Christians, are in their eyes the objects of their dictatorship. We are like ants that they can trample to death whenever they want.
This country is no different from North Korea.
Narrator: Mr. Liu, college student
I am a first-year student in the wall, and I did not pay attention to politics at all before. During the epidemic last year, a chance came for me to start going over the wall. At that time, there was the Li Wenliang incident. Li Wenliang was officially declared dead on Twitter, but there was continuous speculation on Weibo for several hours. From that time on, I began to distrust the official media in particular. In fact, I was more afraid at that moment. Everyone has fear in their heart during an epidemic. When the official gives you something that makes you feel insecure you will be more fearful.
I started watching some political programs on the oil tube. At first I was like the people who didn’t know the truth and thought they were all traitors to the country. I would give this country’s emperor to be a slave than to listen to foreign media. Then I realized that although the information may be unfavorable to the official, it is objective. I began to realize that if you have a country that is centralized and serves a few people, it is the same as North Korea. It makes absolutely no sense for us to just serve an emperor. I think China still needs democracy.
It is impossible to tell my parents these things. They are communists and don’t want to hear these things or accept them at all. Most of the people inside the walls are numb to politics.
I don’t want to be an ostrich anymore
Narrator: xiao Yu (pseudonym), Voice of America listener
On the recommendation of a friend, I read Zheng Nian’s “Shanghai Life and Death” and became interested in what happened in China in the 1950s and 1960s. I had heard more or less about the Cultural Revolution before, but adults knew very little about it, and textbooks taught even less about it, often in passing. As I read more and more about the book, I began to collect as much historical information about the Cultural Revolution as I could. From the historical materials I searched, I saw history that I could not see before, and it was painful to see the death of each celebrity. I admired Zheng Nian’s strength and resilience, and when I finished reading the last page of the novel on the plane, I burst into tears. I made up my mind that when I earn enough money I must study outside to get to know these countries better and stop being an ostrich, burying my head in the sand all the time. Because it is inside the wall, some words cannot be said explicitly, and it will be better when I leave here.
No more brainwashing education for the next generation
Narrator: Zhao Songshan, Voice of America listener
Growing up in the 1980s, my parents were both employees of the central government, so I must have lived in a relatively affluent group. Growing up, I also learned about the corruption in the institutions and the inefficiency of the entire state system. However, because my father had experienced the Cultural Revolution and had always taught me not to get involved in politics, I did not rebel against the regime, and the biggest rebellion was when my parents tried to place me in their institutions, but I refused.
Since about 2016 (after the Umbrella Movement and the Causeway Bay Bookstore incident) I have completely lost faith in the CCP and have taken the path of anti-communism. For me, Hong Kong was the only hope for democratization on the mainland, and after the Umbrella Movement Hong Kong had completely fallen, and the only spark of democratization in China was extinguished. Since then, I have started to pay more attention to political issues, and I have been doing my best to spread the message outside the walls on social media, calling for the importance of democracy, hoping that more people will recognize that the society under the Chinese Communist Party is not a normal one. China has been invaded by communism since 70 years ago and has been under a dictatorship during the 70 years.
Because they did not want their children to receive a communist education, they grew up with a special education model for their children, and found out when they reached kindergarten that they would be ostracized that way as well. So before starting elementary school I hoped to find a normal school. After going to almost all the private schools in Beijing, I found out that since Xi Jinping’s rule, schools are forced to use the Humanist version of the textbook, which led me to take my children to school in the UK. The reason for coming to the UK was purely to avoid the brainwashing education my children receive at home. I believe that the result of this education will lead to serious personality defects.