• Sun
  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 8:33am
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 4:03pm

'Liar-hunter' Fang Zhouzi accuses Ping Fu of selling fake tragedy to Americans

What hurts more than a beating that never took place? Getting a lesson in truthiness from China's most-hated myth-buster, academic and otherwise, Fang Zhouzi.

While not as painful to watch as that time Christopher Hitchens went after myths surrounding Mother Teresa, what Fang seeks to expose now are a number of claims by Geomagic CEO Ping Fu, who found corporate success in the United States after arriving in 1983 to attend graduate school, claims Fang argues range from the unlikely to the seemingly impossible and yet which journalists have taken at face value here, here and elsewhere.

Of the recent heartrending coverage of Fu's new memoir, "Bend, Not Break", it seems to have been this piece from Inc. magazine that prompted Fang's takedown earlier this week (that and Forbes had the piece linked to above translated for its Chinese site here).

First up, Fu's claim she was sent to a labour camp at age 8 or 9 with her younger sister where for the duration of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) she was kept apart from her parents, brainwashed, starved, tortured, gang-raped, forced into child labour and deprived of education.

Fu would have been a minor throughout the Cultural Revolution, Fang points out, never mind her younger sister; children that young being forced into labour camps was unheard of: "I haven't seen this in anyone else's memoirs of the Cultural Revolution, it must have been a tragic experience had only by Ping Fu herself."

As for Fu's claim of being deprived of education those ten years, Fang points out that in 1977 - when the holding of university entrance examinations resumed and Fu was accepted by Suzhou University - not only were all applicants get pre-screened for eligibility, but also less than 5 per cent of applicants were accepted that year. "Was she a prodigy?," he asks.

In 2010, Fu told NPR (13:30 here) she witnessed Red Guards execute one teacher by tying each limb to a separate horse and dismembering her by having each horse run simultaneously in a separate outward direction, done specifically to frighten the kids into submission.

Of all the different cruel ways people were killed during the Cultural Revolution, Fang writes, with many beaten to death or buried alive, dismemberment using four horses was unheard of, except for Ping Fu's having said so. She says all the other kids in the labour camp were assembled to watch this, he asks, so why didn't even a single one of them step forward to say they'd witnessed such a rare and inhumane thing? Were all the other children killed?

Getting technical, Fang adds dismemberment by horse sounds easy, but would have been quite difficult to pull off even if Red Guards had been able to find four horses trained to do such things. "Would Red Guards go to such great lengths just to scare these kids?"

Several hundred years ago there was rumoured to have been dismemberment by five horses, Fang goes on, but in fact that was just a legend:

Criminals have been dismembered using horse carriages, which is obviously easy to carry out, but not using horses themselves.

Dismemberment by carriage has been carried out several times in Chinese history, he says, but records of it were kept each time and the practice died out hundreds of years ago. Dismemberment by four horses was used in ancient times in the West, and if China's Red Guards actually resumed the practice in Nanjing in the 1960s, making that the first time in Chinese history a living human was dismembered using four horses, and Ping Fu is the only person to publicly acknowledge having witnessed this, then shouldn't those who research incidents of torture call her to talk? Shouldn't the victims and other eyewitnesses also be sorted out?

In an interview with Forbes, Fu also appears to have claimed to have written her undergrad thesis at Suzhou University on the practice of female infanticide in rural China and that her research received nationwide press converage at the time. In 2005, speaking to Inc., Fu went on to explain that after she submitted her undergrad thesis in 1980, her findings were later covered by Shanghai's Wen Hui Bao newspaper and later also by People's Daily, resulting in condemnation from around the world, sanctions imposed by the UN, and Fu getting tossed into prison.

Fang says he went back and checked People's Daily archives for the period Fu says her research would've been published there and found nothing regarding female infanticide in rural China:

In fact anyone with a bit of political common sense knows that People's Daily at that time was full of nothing but glorious and wonderful news and it's impossible anything affecting China's image as much as this would've received coverage.

As for the UN imposing sanctions on China, does she not know that China, as a member of the UN Security Council, also has the power to veto motions? Why does nobody else in China know that the UN placed sanctions on China in 1981? And how does Ping Fu know that?

Regarding Fu's claim to NPR she was walking on campus when a black bag was suddenly thrown over her head and she was stuffed into a car before being arrested:

This is like a scene from a gangster film. In 1981, was there actually any university campus in China where the Public Security Bureau would have had any reservation about taking away a university student?

On Fu's claim she was then held three days and narrowly avoided being sentenced to reform through labour when authorities decided instead to send her into exile:

Getting exiled to the United States to study just for writing a thesis with negative content, could there be anything more wonderful in this world? The only people China sentences to be deported are foreigners. The practice of sending dissidents off to the United States didn't begin until the 1990s, and that was only reserved for the most high-profile of dissidents.

Ping Fu was an unheard-of university student at the time, which makes being deported off to the United States to study a true miracle. Being allowed to pay your own way to study in the United States in the early 1980s was remarkably difficult to achive; without special connections overseas, it would've been impossible.

Noting Fu told Forbes she arrived in the United States knowing only three words of English, Fang remembered hearing the same anecdote in interviews she'd given to other media, so he went back and checked and found different sets of those first three words:

Inc.: Please, thank you, help;
Bend, Not Break: Thank you, hello, help;
NPR: Thank you, help, excuse me.

Not only that:

According to the Inc. report Ping Fu arrived at Suzhou University wanting to study engineering or business, but the Party assigned her to study English. How then could she have only learned just three words? Even if she wasn't an English major, English was still one of the core courses. And even if she was a poor student, how is it possible she was only able to remember the three most basic words in English?

All these claims are only good enough to fool laowai who don't know anything about China. Ping Fu knows that, which is why she's so much more honest when speaking with Chinese.
At the time, Chinese international students had many ways of being able to stay there in the United States. One of those was to fabricate bizarre tales of having faced persecution in China and apply for political asylum. It didn't matter how fantastic you made your experiences, Americans would still believe them to be true. Some people told so many lies they even started believing it themselves.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Hope more journalists will follow up her story. What puzzles me is that If she really experienced those things as she claims, how come she gave different versions of her story at different times? What disturbs me further is that it might be a well-publicized example of cheating to succeed.
There is some response from Ms. Ping Fu posted at:
Many comments follow, and below are two of them, with extremely sharp questioning:
Tou Ji:
You said you didn't apply for political asylum, which contradicts some of the Chinese reports (very positive reports on you I would add, I wonder where they got that information). Care to let us know how and when you got your green card?
"The four migrant Business persons who sat on the stage all had their own stories. Geomagic Chairwoman Fu Ping was born in mainland China, grew up during Cultural Revolution, 1983 came to the US, applied for political asylum and obtained greencard, later started her own company"
If the above statement is confirmed, then reason for Fu's story-telling would be easy to understand.
Ms. Fu made the statement below, which is completely contradicting the finding above.
"I didn't apply for political asylum; I was explicitly told not to attract attention."
Another paragraph from Ms. Fu, right before her statement above:
"Chinese international students had many ways of being able to stay in the United States. One of those was to fabricate bizarre tales of having faced persecution in China and apply for political asylum. It didn't matter how fantastic you made your experiences, Americans would still believe them to be true."
It's so ironic to hear this from her.
The trouble is that the "West" is too ready to accept anything bad or negative about the East, and China & the Chinese especially.
That is why, among other things, they refer to smelly athlete's foot as "Hong Kong Foot", to heroin as "China White" etc. So it opens the door for those who wish to start a new life overseas to invent stories, to write novels etc. about their treatment in their own towns or villages, so long as there are gullible Westerners willing themselves to believe them.
That is not to say that all is rosy in the East, but Westerners should learn to be a bit more sceptical.
I presume that by 'they', you mean westerners? I had athlete's foot once, and when I went to the doctor for treatment he was the one referring to it as 'Hong Kong foot', not the other way around. I think you'll find that, at least in this instance, they do tend to 'adopt' things themselves....
I am so shocked!
She is definitely a liar!
Maybe the article is a bit heavy to read with the links but overall it has its merits and exposes the lies. The problem is in part with China itself, trying to erase the collective memory of what went wrong during the Cultural revolution and Tiananmen (I saw it live on TV). As not so many reliable accounts are available, some people take advantage to make up stories (and to get a green card?). Yes, many bad things happened during the Cultural revolution and Mao's mass killings due to famine and other horrors. One day China must face its history and not just talk about bad Japanese. My Chinese family went through the horrors, my wife was probably the youngest political prisoner. Many really bad things happened. But the "horse story" is indeed far-fetched. The vacuum in information results in this sensational spread of news in Western media, so hungry for blood and tears. Denying the horrors of the past will only result in stories like Ping Fu, of people craving for media light. One day, the truth will come out.

She entered US on 1984 Jan, She become US citizen 1992.
She must have green card since 1987. She married 1991(US citizen)。
1987 green card can NOT via marriage. How comes she get green card in such short time only 3 year?
The only way is asylum. In order to get asylum status approved,
She must make false statement to immigration asylum office on 1987!!!!
All her story about abuse, rape, in prison, children workers, expile, deport,
everything are fake. The only reason she make those fake statement to immigration is to get asylum green card!!!
Jean, please contact immigration asylum office to pull out the fake statement she made on 1987.
If the asylum office statement she made is same statement as her book says, as your article says.
This would be serious violate the Federal immigration Law!!!!
This is serious CRIME!!!!
Even it was 1987!!!!
US people can't tell she is a lier, but any similar age people grow up in China would easy know she is a BIG liar.
If she lie to immigration service to get green card, ok, but know she lie to the whole world!!! We got to stop her. President Obama should know he hire a such liar. Fake statement to immigration is a CRIME.
All her excuse are not established without evidence.
You need to provide the evidence about the newspaper article.
If she tell the truth, she don't have to remember anything. Otherwise, A liar needs a good memory.
You bring up felony. Hmmm, Ms Fu Ping will now have some sleepless nights, if not nightmares.
My goodness, this has to be one of the worst-edited articles I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Were you drunk when you wrote this? One golden rule of hyperlinking: NEVER create a link called 'here' or 'click here'. The reader doesn't know what you're linking to.
E.g: "...yet which journalists have taken at face value here, here and elsewhere". This sentence without its hyperlinks makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
This is aside from all the appalling grammar.
SCMP, how could you? I thought you were better than this.
Do you prefer well written lies to solid factual stories scripted in less than King's English?
If I'm paying for news I expect solid facts I can READ. The inept style in which these facts were presented undermines its credibility. I stand my ground.
Ping Fu's story was obviously made up against her gross hating background against China, so much so that she lied, and lied to a gross extent. Not just Fang, any Chinese having some knowledge about the Cultural Revolution in China can tell you that Ping Fu is lieing. Dear Ms Ping Fu, does your lieing effort worth the while to trade for some political fame and commercial gains in the US? I will feel sorry for you if you are still a Chinese, but now I don't.
By the same token, you should ask the same questions why Hong Kong morons demonstrating every June 4 insist that soldiers had killed students at Tian An Men square.
No sane people believe the absence of massive bloodshed in Beijing on that fateful day in 1989. Yet liars have been keeping up the same myth year after year. Like Ping Fu, these self-hate Chinese know a sure thing when they see one. Lies of student martyrs fetch the highest China bashing value in the media.
Is Liu Xiaobo, the winner of the Peace Prize, really a peace lover? In his writings, Liu enthusiastically supports every US foreign war, Korea, Vietnam -- a genocidal war, Iraq and Afghanistan. He makes John Birchers and American Nazis blush by his bloodlust ideology.
The holy man Dalai Lama also has a similar spotty record. He refused to condemn the same US foreign wars. For that, he has been rewarded with CIA funds.
Indeed, tyrannies are legion through our history. Yet they could hardly match up to slave trades and bloody imperialist wars. The real question is this. Why is there a concerted media effort to discredit China? Nobel Peace Prize for Dalai Lama and Liu Xiaobo is just another means to perpetuate another myth: The sole possessor of universal values belongs to the West.
he we go again. another revisionist claiming students were not killed at tian an men. mate, you won't get much credit posting this **** here. go work for tai kung pao, and you just might get the CCPC nomination if you keep sucking the party c-ck.
The illiteracy of yellow eight egg is duly acknowledged.
bit of sloppy editing on this piece.
I have no idea why the Ping Fu or the media would lie or sensationalise the story. And on top of it, people just want to hear what they want to hear, and so what's not true can easily be formed in people's mind to be true. No fact checking needed. This is something like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The only people who have less of this disease are the scientists and mathematicians. I prefer to have more Mr Fang and Julian Assange in this world. I admire Mr Fang for his effort. Ur the man ! Other persons I admire would be Lee Kuan Yew and Wang Qishan for their no BS and facts-only personality.
This seems a bit off. Some people may just want to have their views or beliefs reinforced, but it's more likely even more people want, in the end, to hear the truth. That's why we have journalism and in some cases don't have utopian paradises.
That said, fact-checking is usually a good idea.
I have journalist within my family and friends. I respect journalism, but at the same time, journalism is also bias (no offence). Journalists must choose what to report and which stories within the confined space of a newspaper or a news website. All these will eventually create readers who would think or have "illusions" that this place is XYZ or that the people in this region are ABC. It has a self-feeding mechanism in that, News A reports something and finds that it creates lots of readers, studied their behaviours and dig out even more stories along the same line or ideas that will garner even more readers or satisfy their present readers and eventually create a cycle, in this case, Americans who hear what they want to hear and have the illusion or stereotypes that these people are such and such or this region is so and so.
I have to read at least three different news outlet daily to avoid this trap. As a reader, I would like more news around people like Mr Fang or news like what you wrote that challenges the current mindset of the people.
More likely, the minimum requirement of 3 independent sources is a myth. Chances are many China bashing stories are from the same echo chamber.
When I gave a Hong Kong banana the documented reports of Tiananmen by Columbia School of Journalism, the US State Department, the Canadian Embassy and others that one never reads in the press, he was all riled up. Not only did he insult me that I am all wet with fantasies, but he also tries to convert me to his HATE faith - China is totally corrupt and evil incarnate.
Then why doesn't Beijing just release the actual story? Like you say, it's almost certainly less grim than what everyone outside the situation assumes it to be. Until they release their account and their records, of course everyone will assume it's because they have something to hide. It's all the cover ups that make it worse.
That's the way government works. Using the pretext that Vietnam PT boats had attacked a US destroyer, the US bombed Haiphong in 1996. It turned out that the attack on USS Turner Joy was a fabrication according to a congressional testimony. Its radar system was out of commission that day. But this is still classified information today.
The US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, deporting legal Chinese workers constructing the nation's rail systems and disparaging Chinese as a lower race that couldn't be integrated into American society. Never mind Chinese were paying their lion share of taxes in California then. 130 years later, no official apology is forthcoming.
From the bottom of my heart, I think American is a great country. I am telling you this because this is just how most governments work.
Only the dumbest, self-hate Chinese would take every opportunity to relentlessly insult their own country and compatriots.


SCMP.com Account