On June 4, 1989, thousands of civilians—mostly made up of students and intellectuals—gathered in Tiananmen Square in a protest inspired by the death of Hu Yaobang, an official known for tolerating dissent. The government responded by sending in the military, leading to the deaths of an estimated 3,000 people—including both military and civilians. Chai Ling was a student leader in the protest, and went into hiding for months afterward. Now a successful businesswoman who became a Christian last year, she is working to restore dignity to China’s women and children through her organization All Girls Allowed. We spoke to her about China’s one-child policy, the driving force behind All Girls Allowed and how her experience with Tiananmen Square affected her life’s work.
After years spent working in the business world, what inspired you to found All Girls Allowed?
I had come of faith last December 4 … so the transformation started taking place around May. I have a group of brothers from Texas—I call them “Christian brothers”—and they’re the board members and president of ChinaAid. They help support persecuted churches in China. So I invited them over to Boston [in May] to help them establish a ministry to really address this one-child policy issue.
After spending the weekend with the chairman of the board, the founder and their vice president, they concluded [I was] the person called. I didn’t quite understand what they meant, so that evening when they left, I was given a tape that said, “Make Your Calling Truth” and I listened to that and the beginning said, “When God calls you, you better step out.” It also said basically you had to change whatever you were doing to answer the calling, including your career, your family and everything else. So that’s where All Girls Allowed was born, as a result of that.
Can you tell me a bit about the work All Girls Allowed does and its ultimate goals?
All Girls Allowed has a mission to restore life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China, and also to reveal the injustice of the one-child policy. Each day, over 35,000 babies’ lives are taken. Five hundred women commit suicide as a result of the trauma, so [over] the past 30 years, over 400 million lives were taken. Today in China there are over 25 million young men [without any] women they can marry. By 2020 there will be another 40 million men who will not have … women to marry. Just in comparison, that’s the equivalent of the entire youth population of America.
How did your experience with Tiananmen Square shape who you are today and the work you choose to do?
Very profoundly. The way God has known us before we were born and had a plan for us, even though in time I didn’t really know the plan. When I escaped from Beijing after most students left the Square, I had no idea how to go hiding, so it took me 10 months in hiding until I was able to get out from China. At one time I was just so crushed under the survivors’ guilt and [asking, even though I didn’t know God:] “Why God? Why am I still alive while so many were killed?” There was a group of really brave Buddhists and Taoist people. They hid me and they protected me by risking their own lives. And they said, “You’re still alive because your work in this life has not been done.” That was extremely powerful and helpful in sustaining me for the rest of my hiding journey, including the part when I had to escape from China in a cargo box inside a boat for 105 hours. But I didn’t really know, what is my work in this life. So now I do know what that is and so that journey prepared me for the work I’m supposed to do for the Kingdom.
I also read that you’re funding a million dollar campaign to promote democracy in China. Can you speak to that a little bit and what that plan is?
That plan was made in 2009, on the 20th anniversary. I realized there was just so much sadness and crime in China, and so before I had this plan I kept working in for-profit world and [thought] some day we can build a big organization to do bigger things. But I realized people are very suffering, lives are taken—they need to see hope, and they need to see hope now. So I made that commitment to fund $1 million in total to improve the humanitarian and human rights work in China. Now, All Girls Allowed is a continuation of that commitment. With All Girls Allowed our commitment is much greater financially to the cause that could potentially benefit a much bigger number of women and children in China.
What all is part of the campaign?
We gave financial assistance to victims’ families as a result of the June 4th massacre. We gave some of the families are really in hardship. They couldn’t afford to buy shoes, so hopefully those cash assistance would really go a long way to help them to know people still care and love them. And we help support the writers who publish books about the massacre so more people will know what actually happened. We also provide funding for organizations who provide, build websites so all the correct information on June 4—pictures and video, it’s like an online memorial about what happened so people will not forget. We also provide some funding for people trying to work on breaking the firewalls so more people in China can really know the free world more. But I think that’s what I try to do with my own flesh and body and our strength—[since] I came to Christ things became much more refined and focused.
How can people get involved and help All Girls Allowed?
This year we’re doing a 1,000 baby shower packages, so that addresses the gendercide issue. So the money, $250, will go into a family who decided to keep their baby girl, and they’ll support the baby girl for a nutrition, for clothing, whatever it takes. We have another program to support scholarships and stipends for baby girls who are abandoned in orphanages. We also have a program to help reunite trafficked children [with their families]. The fourth one is to provide legal aid to defend mothers against forced abortions and also to provide post-trauma counseling if we’re not able to help them fend off the crime, those women and mothers can be helped so they will not take their own life.
At the end of the day, we realize the whole mission of All Girls Allowed is really to bring God’s love to China and to where the victims are most vulnerable and violated—let them know God still loves them and cares for them. And through this process, to bring the Gospel to those people and to bring the Gospel even to the perpetrators, the policy makers, the enforcers.
For more information on All Girls Allowed and Chai Ling, visit the organization’s website.