I saw a profile tonight on Hong Kong TV of Gao Yaojie, China’s retired doctor who disclosed the tragedy of farmers in Hunan Province contracting AIDS after selling blood for money, and consequently suffer house arrest, communication cut-off from the outside world, and monitoring day and night by the police.
If not for watching the profile, I would not have known what a great woman Gao is. Well, I knew she is great, from the media, but not until I get the chance to see on TV what she has to say, and what sacrifices she has to make, do I understand her – and China – better.
She was filmed going to the US to get a prestigious award from Vital Voices, a non-profit organization for her contribution to the AIDS issue in China. She said: “I do not feel happy. I feel a mix of emotions for getting the award.” Previously, she said, her son kneeled down on the floor to beg her not to go to the US. “Just say you are sick. Don’t go to the US, my son said. But how can you lie to the whole world? I don’t want to lie, just like so many people in this dark society.”
“My son’s head kneeled so down that it touched the floor. It hurt me. I announce herewith to the world, what I do has nothing to do with my son.”
Gao going to the US to get the award was stopped by the Government of Henan province, where she lives. Gao was finally be able to make it because Hilary Clinton intervened, pleading to China’s President and Premier. Reaction of Gao’s son is understandable. He was imprisoned for three years during Cultural Revolution because of his mum’s brave criticism of the Government. Now, he didn’t want more troubles for his mum and himself, so he was pleading his mum not to go against the will of the authority.
But Gao was determined. “I am 80 years old. What can I fear? I will not lie and I will die without regrets.”
Her daughter, also a doctor, lost her job because of the fierce criticism Gao levied on the authority. She left China a few years ago and moved to Canada where she has to work as a waitress in a restaurant, rather than as a doctor. She had a bad relationship with her mum Gao since. Only after her dad died, did her relationship with her mum improved.
About the situation of her daughter, Gao said:” I feel helpless. What can I do?”
The TV profile shows her daughter meeting her mother Gao in the US. The daughter didn’t want to talk about her relationship with her mum. She said: “For an outsider, my mum does the right thing. But for an insider, ….” She didn’t want to continue. Her tears were rolling in her eyes.
I think tragedies like this can only happen in China, and more tragically, tragedies like this continue into today’s China, a rising economic power.