Monday, April 7, 2008

The Hartford Courant Report on Kai Chen 媒体对我在耶鲁签书的报道

发表于: Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:56 am 发表主题: The Hartford Courant Report on Kai Chen 媒体对我在耶鲁签书的报道


The Hartford Courant Report on Kai Chen 媒体对我在耶鲁签书的报道

Ex-Player On Chinese National Team Raises Warnings About Repression

Former Chinese Athlete Finds Freedom Priceless

By DOM AMORE | Courant Staff Writer
April 5, 2008

NEW HAVEN — - The story still brings tears to Kai Chen's eyes. The images of his best friend and fellow athlete, forced to depart four decades ago.

The day Chen saw his friend leave, he could see, not far off, a similar fate for himself.

"I knew there had to be another way," Chen said, "another way besides misery and suffering and death."

Chen, who grew up in Maoist China, has nonetheless lived a life of free choice and survived to write about it. His book, "One in a Billion: Journey Toward Freedom," chronicles his life as a professional athlete in China, beginning in the days of the Cultural Revolution. Today, with the Olympics in Beijing a few months away, Chen wants to tell the world that little has really changed there.

In an emotional, often spellbinding 90-minute discussion at the Yale Bookstore this week, Chen, 55, recounted his life and insights as his daughter, Alex, a senior who played basketball at Yale, sat in the audience.

As a teenager, Chen was growing, on his way to 6 feet 7. During the late 1960s, when Mao insisted young people go out to the countryside to learn the ways of hard work, he was assigned to a grain depot. But his size and strength caught attention, and he was deemed a "special project," reassigned to Beijing to play basketball. With the growing popularity of China's table tennis program, the government had seen the propaganda possibilities of using sports to gain international legitimacy.

While in Beijing, Chen met Xiao, a track athlete, and they became close friends, but both had a secret.

"One day, he told me he was leaving," Chen said. "[The authorities] had found problems with his family background. I went to the train station to see him off, and I knew sooner or later I would face the same fate."

Xiao went back to the countryside, and shortly thereafter, when Chinese officials learned that Chen had relatives in Taiwan, he, too, was sent back. Chen continually resisted and joined the military so he could play basketball.

He was subjected to rigid training, at one point was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers and anemia, and he nearly died during his "training."

In 1972, he learned that Xiao, despondent over the end of his athletic career, had died of carbon monoxide poisoning; drunk, he had built a fire in a poorly ventilated room. From that day forward, Chen insisted on exercising his own choices, in spite of Chinese authoritarianism and culture.

"It is one thing to have fear," he said. "It is another to have moral confusion. People in China do not believe in individual freedom. They do not even believe such a thing is possible. They have been taught to believe that individual freedom would bring chaos."

Chen went on to play for top military teams in China and, eventually, for the national team, where he became more exposed to outside ideologies. After his retirement from basketball, in 1979, he met Susan Grueneberg, a U.S. exchange student. The two eventually married and in 1981 Chen moved to Los Angeles to start a family.

"I remember the first time Susan and I celebrated my birthday," Chen said, fighting back tears. "I never knew I had a birthday. We always celebrated Mao's birthday, the army's birthday, China's birthdays. It was the first time I realized my existence was significant."

By coincidence, Chen was back in Beijing visiting family members in 1989 at the time of the massacre at Tiananmen Square. "In a way, I am like the Forrest Gump of China," he said.

In the years since, Chen has become an activist, to raise awareness of China's regime and to raise the call for human rights. Last year, he launched an "Olympic Freedom" T-shirt campaign to remind the world of the bloody events at Tiananmen. The shirts are emblazoned with the words, "We will never forget."

In recent years, basketball players such as Wang Zhizhi and Yao Ming have left China for the NBA, but to Chen that does not represent progress. "First they must sign what I call a 'soul-selling contract,'" he said. "They are still the property of China."

Chen gave a copy of his book to an old friend, the mother of a young athlete in China. They began exchanging e-mails across the Pacific, the woman telling Chen she wished to learn English so she could read the book more thoroughly. Then in one e-mail, she told him the officials had become aware of his book.

"I thought, 'oh-oh,'" Chen said. "I got no more e-mails from her, and when I sent her one, it came back. That e-mail address no longer existed. I saw again how nothing has really changed."

Contact Dom Amore


发表于: Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:42 am 发表主题: Bball player Chen criticizes China 耶鲁大学对陈凯讲演的报道

Bball player Chen criticizes China 耶鲁大学对陈凯讲演的报道

Bball player Chen criticizes China

Reddit Eric Randall

Kai Chen has a request for those traveling to China for this summer’s Olympics: “When you go there, do something or say something. Tell people that Tiananmen Square happened.”

The political activist, author and former member of the Chinese National Basketball Team spoke Thursday at a Jonathan Edwards College Master’s Tea to an audience of about 25. Chen, who said he fears returning to his homeland because of his activism, discussed his life, his grievances with the Chinese government and the upcoming Olympics.

Growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution, Chen, 54, said he found “sustenance” playing basketball. At the age of 17, the six-foot-seven Chen was recruited to the Chinese National Basketball Team.

But the government soon expelled him from the team because of his grandmother’s connections with the Nationalist Army in Taiwan, which fought against the Communist regime before China’s civil war in the 1940s. It was a low point for Chen, he said.

Despite this setback, he said, “I chose to make an effort to live and succeed and go towards freedom and happiness.”

After years of evading the government’s order to send him back to the countryside and a brief but near deadly stint with the army — poor nutrition and an ulcer left him hospitalized — Chen managed to work his way back to the National Team.

At the age of 27, when he was at what he describes as the peak of his career, Chen made the difficult decision to leave basketball by faking a heart condition because he felt he could no longer represent the Chinese government.

“The system and the country have always held my love for the sport as a hostage against me,” he explained. “They force you to use this thing that you love to benefit something you despise.”

After China opened up diplomatic relations with the United States in 1979, Chen met his future wife, Susan, a U.S. student studying in Beijing. They married after two years of courtship and soon moved to the United States.

Chen described his bleak outlook on life before he came to America: “I never believed happiness existed because I’d never seen it.”

Yet in America he found it. When asked what makes America strong, Chen gestured to the audience.

“Here, in your eyes I can see a yearning for truth and trust,” he said. “I’m here for that. In China they do not have that look.”

Now a U.S. citizen, Chen said he still harbors anger towards the Chinese government.

“The damage they do to you is not material; it’s spiritual,” he said. “The people in China have no way to judge right and wrong — only what is powerful.”

With this in mind, Chen began the Olympic Freedom T-Shirt Movement. While not a proponent of a boycott — as an athlete, he understands the importance of the games — he wants those traveling to the Olympics this summer wear his shirt as a sign of protest.

Haley Warden ’08 said she took issue with some of Chen’s characterizations of the Chinese people.

“While he seemed to attribute the passivity of [the] Chinese to a pervasive slave mentality, I have been encouraged by my interactions with Chinese people,” she said in an e-mail after the talk.

One sophomore in attendance, who declined to give his name, said he liked Chen’s viewpoint.

“I thought he was a very reasonable speaker,” he said. “I didn’t think he was radical at all.”

Warden agreed: “I think that he’s very hopeful that he and like-minded individuals can bring change to China, or at least awareness,” she said.

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