Outta This Place-A Review in East Bay Express |
Who belongs where? The expat uproot by choice, immigrants more by need. As a successful Beijing financier, a happily married mother and homeowner, Zeng Zheng never dreamed of decamping. Then she was arrested and served, sans lawyer or trial, a year of "forced re-education through labor" for joining Falun Gong, the spiritual sect officially deemed an "evil cult" by China's government. Now an Australian citizen renamed Jennifer Zeng, she recounts in Witnessing History (Soho, 25) being beaten, starved on three rolls a day, blistered with electric prods, brainwashed, and kept awake nights in sixteen-hour shifts making clothing and toys for Western firms that wanted quick, cheap prison labor. "My prod is expert at punishing evil," intoned one guard, who inserted said weapon in prisoners' vaginas. Another wielded electrified acupuncture needles. Denied showers on 104-degree days, shivering unsweatered through icy months, sharing a crowded platform-bed, Zeng saw inmates clouted comatose, bones exposed, brain-damaged: It lends perspective to China's hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics, and to Guantánamo's three daily square meals and twice-daily showers. Zeng calls her plight standard practice in a country where "people are no longer capable of choosing between what is honorable and what is evil ... the eighty-year-long history of the Chinese Communist Party has been written in blood." Seizing a postrelease visa, she fled. Her husband was then arrested.
These authors, and the millions of others whose stories we don't see, moved abroad because, globalism aside, not all nations are yet alike. Nor are all equal. Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side — although sometimes, as Bawer found, it won't stay that way.
by Anneli Rufus
Article Published Apr 26, 2006, East Bay Express
Ordering Witnessing History on line:
From Allen & Unwin in Australia