The following post is something I wrote while I was in China adopting our two daughters. I chose to post it after returning home because after only three weeks, I too felt threatened by China. The surveillance, the deliberately imposing threat of speaking against their control, the fear in the faces of people who opened up about their plight, it was too much to digest all at once. So I saved it, out of fear that China would find a way to punish me, an American citizen, and I published it after my return. I felt threatened, but this issue is much too important. I, for one, won’t remain silent.
I wrote this post one night during the middle of our trip. China is truly overwhelming. It is hard to put thought to words. This post contains no photos and details have been changed to protect the people we met. The danger they face is real. They are monitored closely as were we.
We loved China: the people, much of the culture, the history and beauty. But China is a nation torn between generations and between Eastern and Western ideals. There is striving and desire for freedom, but the oppression and government control is suffocating. It was difficult to write because I have no category for most of what I experienced and most of what I witnessed.
Many times in my life, I have spoken when I should have remained silent because I didn’t have anything meaningful to say. These past few days, there is so much to say, but no words. I have experienced so many thoughts and emotions, I’m not sure how I can put it together in a coherent account. Coherent is about the last word I could use to describe this trip, or China.
Nanning was a blur. Everything seemed difficult. Those who already experienced this trip warned me, the middle is the hardest. It was. Nanning is the capital of the province, so that’s where we had to go for the paperwork. It was so different than Jinan. It was hectic, hurried, crazy, hot, and incredibly humid. Overall, we were glad to leave the city.
The difficulty in Nanning, the difficulty generally in China, was eye-opening. We met a Christian man belonging to a persecuted underground church. He and others told us Chinese citizens are free to worship as long as the government approves and ultimately controls the church. If their faith does not align with the options the government approves, they must either ignore their conscience or meet illegally. So, he meets in an underground church. He is allowed only one child and his wife faces the threat of forced abortion if she becomes pregnant again. He is permitted to drive to work on only Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends. He is not allowed to own a gun and is threatened if he speaks against the central government or tries to assemble. This man lives in a country where most people make around $4,000 per year and where 900 sq/ft. tenement apartments cost about $500,000 -$1,000,000 to own, but no one truly owns property in China, they are only allowed to use it for a tenured amount of time. He lives in a nation where there is no welfare or medical assistance other than a small network of family and friends who also have almost nothing, where if his child gets a simple cold it costs him hundreds of dollars and if his child needs therapy or surgeries, he must pay upfront in order to receive treatment, even if it means his child will die. And they do die, millions die from lack of treatment. He has freedom to move to a different city, but if he moves, he not only loses his network of friends and family, he loses everything he paid into a government run retirement plan.
He asked us if he could share our adoption story to the people in his church, the church that consists of a few families meeting in a living room, because he thought our testimony would encourage the members of the church. He thought it might challenge these persecuted believers of Christ to step out of their comfort zone and do something by faith. I thought, “Are you kidding me?” He was dumfounded and teary-eyed when I told him that churches in America pray for the persecuted church in China and that we are challenged by their faith.
We met others, similar others. One man admitted he did not know an accurate account of history and he had no idea what truly happened in Tiananmen Square. Another man subscribes to a service which allows him to search the internet freely, to access Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more, but told us that few have access to this service. Another man asked me for my information because he personally knows children who need a family and he hoped there were others like us, willing to help. One woman told us that her mother-in-law offered to raise her child in secret so that she could have two children. Several people told us that they have never heard of Down Syndrome because few can afford to care for children with disabilities and those who can keep their children at home. The children we meet, those adopted, tell us of living with a disability, abandoned by parents, in an orphanage, in this country. They tell us, even in their silence, through scars, tears, fear, and strange behaviors.
Citizens want change, but the threat from the government is real and tangible. For example, a Chinese man, winner of the nobel peace prize, lives in prison because he wrote and circulated an online petition calling for constitutional rights for Chinese citizens, the message from the government is clear. Most citizens of China are too scared to speak out, to even think or talk about change and freedom, true freedom. They barely make enough money to survive. They fear their actions will cause harm to their families and friends. So they keep quiet. They live to survive and try to live in peace.
There are so many words that need spoken. But the silence resonates: The silence from 400,000,000 lives forcibly ended, of the girls who were never allowed to grow into womanhood, of churches forced underground, of history erased from texts, of web pages blocked, of secret surveillance, of the disabled institutionalized, of babies who have learned no one answers when they cry, and of those brave enough to talk about or attempt change imprisoned or killed. I lack the words to describe our time here. It is hard even to understand what I have seen and what I have not. It seems China’s silence speaks the loudest.
The photo below is a picture of one of my daughters during her time in a government funded orphanage in China.