WASHINGTON—The widow of prominent Chinese dissident Liu Binyan, who died of cancer this week at age 80, says she wants her husband’s ashes returned to China-from which he was exiled for the last 16 years of his life.
“I am a Chinese. I am willing to return. I hope to be able to return. When I have finished taking care of things, I will go to the Chinese consulate to apply for a visa. I will find out then whether they will allow me to return or not,” Zhu Hong said from her home in East Windsor, New Jersey.
Such news cannot be censored...When one person finds out, he would tell 10 others, and they would each tell 10 others. This is after all an information age. There are multiple ways to get information.
“My children and I feel that we must bring his ashes back to China. China would not let Binyan go back when he was alive. But I assume they would not stop his ashes from returning home,” Zhu Hong said in an interview. “It was our wish to return to China. But the Chinese government never responded,” she said, referring to the years since 1989, when the couple were banned from returning home from the United States.
“If they had decided to say no to our request, they should have given us a reason for saying no and told us what he had done wrong. If they had decided to attach certain conditions to his return, they should have told us what the conditions were. But there was not any response. Just silence.”
“My son and daughter each have their own jobs and families in China. So they must go back soon. They will bring his ashes back as they return to China. As for myself, of course I hope to be able to return to China as well. After all, China is my homeland,” she told RFA’s Mandarin service in her first interview since her husband’s death.
Zhu also said her husband hadn’t suffered in his last days. “The doctors fulfilled their promise to me, that Binyan would die without much pain and suffering. I am profoundly grateful to them.”
“Countless people have called me in the past two days to offer condolences, some from lifelong friends, some from mere acquaintances. Many would cry as soon as I answered the phone,” she said.
Asked about China’s official media blackout on Liu’s death, she replied: “It’s only natural that official Chinese media did not report on his passing. When [ousted party chief] Zhao Ziyang died, they issued only a very brief news item. And Liu Binyan died overseas. Of course they would not report it.”
We were married for more than 50 years. We had become part of each other’s being. We were like air and water to each other. It’s unimaginable that either of us could exist without the other. But he is really gone.
“But I don’t think it matters much. Because in the past two days not only have I received phone calls from people across America, I also received many calls from inside China. Such news cannot be censored. Such news would definitely be told and retold. When one person finds out, he would tell 10 others, and they would each tell 10 others,” Zhu said. “This is after all an information age. There are multiple ways to get information.”
“We were married for more than 50 years. We had become part of each other’s being. We were like air and water to each other. It’s unimaginable that either of us could exist without the other. But he is really gone,” she added.
Liu died shortly after midnight Monday after a long struggle with colon cancer. Among those who visited him in his last hours were Yale Chinese lector Su Wei and East Asian Studies Professor Perry Link of Princeton University, where Liu had worked after his arrival in the United States in 1988.
Zhu said Liu had asked for the following words to be included on any memorial to his life and work: “Here lies a Chinese who said what had to be said, and did what had to be done.”
Liu Binyan stayed at Princeton as a scholar from the time that he arrived in the United States, and also served as chairman of the Chinese Scholars’ Association. He was a former chairman of International PEN, and of the Independent Chinese PEN writers’ groups, and acted as adviser to the New York-based Human Rights in China.
A former People’s Daily journalist who was expelled from the Party in 1987 for advocating free speech and carrying out reportage into official abuses of power, Liu joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1944 but was demoted and persecuted time and again because of his blunt criticism.
Born in the northeastern industrial city of Changchun in 1925, Liu became a Marxist as a young man, joining the Chinese Communist Party during the 1940s.
Condemned as a “rightist” during the 1950s for two novels critical of corruption and censorship in the new regime, he was sent into exile, then rehabilitated, only to spend eight years in a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
Liu was expelled from the Party in 1987, and arrived in the United States just before the Tiananmen Square bloodshed of 1989.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Kou Tianli. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written by Sarah Jackson-Han and edited by Luisetta Mudie.