The story of Lu Decheng, a Chinese dissident who threw paint-filled eggs at a huge portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Canadian author Chong (The Girl in the Picture: The Remarkable Story of Vietnam’s Most Famous Casualty, 2001, etc.) weaves Lu’s story into a much larger narrative of life in China during the past half century. The author opens with the crucial scene in the Square. Odd-numbered chapters continue this narrative, taking Lu through his interrogation by the police, his formal arrest and trial and his imprisonment, during which he dealt with the strictures of prison life by reading, studying and resisting attempts to “reform” him. Even-numbered chapters recount Lu’s forebears, his childhood in Clear Water Alley in the river town of Liuyang, his mother’s death, his life with his new stepmother and his troubled relationship with his father, who worried that his son was becoming a liumang, a “street rascal” or “hooligan.” The rebellious Lu spent two months in a detention center for an adolescent prank before becoming an apprentice bus mechanic. His love affair with the teenage Qiuping, who became pregnant, reveals much about Chinese restrictions on marriage and child bearing and the methods used to force compliance with the one-child law. Lu shared his dissatisfaction with life under a repressive dictatorship and his growing awareness of corruption and nepotism in the Communist Party with other young members of the pro-democracy movement, forming a bond with Yu Zhijian and Yu Dongyue, later his companions on the expedition to Tiananmen Square. The two narratives converge in the penultimate chapter, as Lu is released from prison in 1998 and returned to Liuyang. Matching the opening sequence, the final chapter is a vivid, blow-by-blow account of the acts leading up to the spirited dictatorship-defying defacement of Mao’s portrait. An author’s note summarizes subsequent events in the life of Lu, who now lives in political asylum in Canada.
A fine tribute to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder of the forces that threaten it.