Interview: Chai Ling on Saving China's Daughters
After escaping from China to the United States 22 years ago, Chai Ling, a top leader in the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, reassembled all the puzzle pieces of her life. She discovered something that had been hidden from her, the answer to perhaps her most difficult question: Where was God during the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen, where China's government killed an estimated 2,600 people (something it continues to deny)? Chai lived with this question until she gave her life to Christ. A pastor at Park Street Church in Boston baptized her on Easter Sunday 2010.
Not long after being baptized, Chai turned her attention to the daily loss of innocent life due to China's one-child policy and subsequent forced abortions. By some estimates, Chinese women have had 400 million abortions since 1979, when the government implemented the one-child policy.
Last year, Chai launched All Girls Allowed, a faith-based organization with the mission of ending the one-child policy and sex-selective abortion (gendercide), and supporting women pregnant with girls. Chai tells her story in her book, A Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Quest to Free China's Daughters (Tyndale House). Christianity Today deputy managing editor Timothy C. Morgan interviewed Chai twice over the past year.
Most China experts see the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests through a political lens. But you don't. Why?
Before, when I was walking in darkness, I didn't understand the meaning. All I saw was the triumph of evil forces and injustice—China killing so many people and still getting away with it.
But now I'm seeing a different side of it. I see the country being transformed into a new nation. God used the massacre to pronounce the death of communism. We thought we were a political movement. What was really happening was a spiritual movement. God used the massacre to wake people up and prepare hearts and minds for a new spiritual awakening.
Tiananmen will be a part of the history of China's church. Many church leaders say it was a major turning point in how the churches evolved from rural to urban and became able to have a profound impact on China's society. It feels like Acts 29. The church in China is a very strong body of Christ that's growing.
How did you finally answer your question, "Where was God during the Tiananmen killing?"?
Once I was praying and asking, "What happened in Tiananmen? Why did you allow this to happen?" The next day, a colleague from Hong Kong who was at Tiananmen sent me by e-mail a journal entry she had written 10 years earlier.
She was a Christian at Tiananmen. She watched the brutal killings take place. She held in her arms a boy who was dying. She came out traumatized, and she was angry with God. Every year she asked God, "Where were you? Why didn't you save the people there?"
Until the tenth anniversary. Then she had to give a testimony for her church. She said she quieted herself and asked gently, "God, where were you?" She went back to the image of the boy dying in her arms. Immediately there was another figure walking toward her from far away. That figure walked with such peace and dignity—she instantly recognized him. He merged into the dying boy. This dying boy was saying, "Persevere until the very end. My blood comes from this place." That figure was Jesus. The Holy Spirit overpowered her. She just cried and cried. Jesus was there.