Student: Apology was fake

The Chinese student who sparked outrage among Chinese nationals who say she sided with Tibetans at a Duke University campus protest says a public apology letter purportedly written by her father is a fake. She also says her parents, whose home was vandalized in China, have gone into hiding.
2008-04-18
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Grace Wang
Cantonese reporter Ho Shan interviews Grace Wang.
Photo: RFA
WASHINGTON—The Chinese student who sparked outrage among Chinese nationals who say she sided with Tibetans at a Duke University campus protest says a public apology letter purportedly written by her father is a fake.

“That wasn’t written by them. I have been in touch with my parents. They told me very clearly that it wasn’t written by them,” Grace Wang, 20, from Qingdao, told RFA’s Mandarin service. “I don’t know who wrote it.”

“I’m sure. They were very clear about that. They also said they knew I would never do anything to betray my country,” Wang said. “They said that they were just lying low, waiting in silence for the coming of spring, as it were, until everyone had calmed down a bit and could take a different view of the matter.”


Cantonese reporter Ho Shan interviews with Grace Wang.

Wang claims that she was only trying to mediate at an April 10 campus vigil, in which several dozen pro-Tibetan students were facing off with several hundred Chinese students. She doesn't support Tibetan independence. But she gave up under verbal assault from the Chinese side.

A few hours later, she published an online essay to the Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association forum, calling for tolerance—and sparking thousands of e-mails and hundreds of phone calls. Her personal data appeared on the Internet, she received death threats, her home in China was vandalized, and her parents are in hiding.

“My mother told me they support me,” Wang told RFA’s Cantonese service “My father thinks he may have to change jobs—but he has no regrets. I just had a phone conversation with them. My father is firm in his position and mom also said ‘ Don’t worry. ‘“

“My parents just told me that someone released a statement or something under their names. They didn’t see it and they don’t want to see it. They told me if I see it to just ignore it…They said they are safe and I have to protect myself. Justice will prevail.”

Phony letter

Grace Wang
Grace Wang plays the 'Guo Zheng', a Chinese musical instrument, in her dorm room at Duke University, on April 17, 2008.
The phony apology, widely circulated on the Internet and purportedly written by Wang’s parents, said: “On behalf of Wang Qianyuan, we beg the forgiveness of the people of China, the forgiveness of all the Chinese in the world. We beg the entire nation to forgive her ignorance and give her an opportunity to rectify her mistake.”

“Every morning [and evening] we exchange e-mails to say we are still alive, and that everything is fine,” she said. “They are being very tight-lipped and not saying much about it. I think they are on the run. I don’t know their exact location. They aren’t telling me. I think that’s because they are afraid the Chinese government will intercept the e-mail.”

“I don’t know when they moved out or where they are staying now. But at least they seem to be all right according to their e-mails. At least they say they’re safe. Now it’s got to the point where it’s not a question of what I say making them worry; it’s me who’s worrying.”

An official at the Qingdao police station, contacted by telephone, acknowledged that the Wang family had been threatened and their home vandalized. He declined to give out further information. “We can’t present our information to the public,” the officer said.

Wang said Thursday she had stopped attending classes and had extra police protection, but she said she worried mostly about her family in China. She said she didn’t believe her life was in danger.

A champion of free expression

“My parents support some of my views and oppose others. But I wouldn’t expect them to think the same as me. That would be terrifying, if everyone thought the same way.

Asked how her fellow students were treating her, she replied: “I was beginning to think that the whole thing would just blow over. But actually it’s not going to blow over until there is some sort of settlement, some justice. It doesn’t really matter what they say to me. The incident itself will probably blow over, but the problem will remain. The truth is still out there if we want to go after it.”

“I think some of them support me because they feel that I am a young female student who is being bullied, but I tell them it’s not me they should support, but the truth. I would just like them to support the right to freedom of expression.”

“I have had threats from a lot of people, both spoken and written. I get a lot of e-mails, but I don’t read them. I just delete them. I don’t bother trying to find out who is sending them. I believe that everyone has the right to free speech, and also the right to say the wrong thing sometimes and to be forgiven for it.”

Wang doesn’t support Tibetan independence—she sees herself as a champion of human rights and free expression. “I think that Tibet is definitely a part of China. It is indivisible from China. This means that we must deal with Tibet and Tibetans as our brothers and compatriots,” she said.

“That means that we should use other methods than those used to deal with outsiders. You can use whatever methods you think expedient with outsiders, even very forceful methods. But with Tibetans we are dealing with our own relatives. There should be more reason and more relatedness in our dealings with them.”

Original reporting by Shen Hua for RFA's Mandarin service and Ho Shan and Lillian Cheung for RFA's Cantonese service. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translation by Shiny Li and Luisetta Mudie. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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