Chai Ling, a prominent student leader at the Tiananmen Square massacre, tells her story in her autobiography, A Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Quest to Free China’s Daughters. The book takes readers through Chai Ling’s life, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and beyond. In the front of the book, she sets a precedent of hope, quoting Psalm 84:6: “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings” (NLT). Chai Ling recounts, as a participant, both the Tiananmen Square massacre and its aftermath. She also describes converting to Christianity and starting her organizations, Jenzabar, Inc. and All Girls Allowed.
The book has seven parts that detail the different phases of Chai Ling’s life. Chai Ling grew up with military parents, two siblings, and her grandmother in Rizhao in the late 1900s. She became a key student leader in the Tiananmen Square massacre while attending Beijing University. After the massacre, she and her husband fled China for the United States. She later divorced and graduated from two Ivy League universities. At Jenzabar, Inc., she met her current husband, Bob Maginn. In addition to leading the students in Tiananmen Square from April to June 1989, she earned a BA in psychology from Beijing University, an MPA in Public Affairs and International Relations from Princeton University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She founded Jenzabar, Inc., an online university portal, and All Girls Allowed, which advocates Chinese women’s rights and aims to end China’s one-child policy.
Chai Ling conveys her desire for China’s freedom from communism, as well as her own quest for freedom from unnecessary guilt, especially from the guilt of four forced abortions. The abortions were forced because Chinese women are required to have a birth permit to have a baby. Such permits are not given to unmarried women or women under twenty-five; Chai Ling met neither of those criteria. She also describes her battle with “survivor’s guilt” after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chai Ling later realized that she and her fellow students had failed “to bring freedom and justice to China” (p. 325) because they had relied on human strength instead of God’s strength. She says, “God used the Tiananmen events to save me and free me. He used everything that happened afterward…so I could see I’m completely helpless unless I trust and rely only on him” (p. 326).
I recommend this book to all who enjoy history, biographies, or both. Chai Ling tells her story well, giving readers a deep, truthful account of her life. Though she did not always know Jesus, Chai Ling now truly lives out Philippians 4:13: “For I can do everything through Christ, who strengthens me” (NLT). – Kelly Helton, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
The dramatic and fascinating story of Chai Ling, commander-in-chief of the student protesters at Tiananmen Square and witness to the massacre of thousands of Chinese civilians. Risking imprisonment and possible death for her leadership role in the student democracy movement, she was on the run in China for ten months while being hunted by the authorities. She eventually escaped to the U.S., completed her education at Princeton and Harvard, found true love, and became a highly successful entrepreneur. But her desperate quest for freedom, purpose, and peace—which she had sought in turn through academic achievement, romantic love, political activism, and career success—was never satisfied until she had an unexpected encounter with a formerly forbidden faith. Her newfound passion for God led to her life’s greatest mission: Fighting for the lives and rights of young girls in China.