Liao Yiwu, a prominent Chinese dissident writer who fled the country earlier this year, will speak Monday night at Patrick Henry College, reading from a poem he wrote, and taking questions from the audience.
Liao, who was born in 1958 as China’s “Great Leap Forward” began, suffered extreme privation as a child and his family was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, said David Aikman, a history professor at Patrick Henry who worked as a reporter in China in the 1980s.
While the Tiananmen Square protests were happening in China in 1989, Liao wrote a poem called “Massacre.” He was arrested several months later.
In prison, Liao was tortured and tried to kill himself several times, Aikman said.
While in prison for four years, Liao interviewed fellow prisoners and wrote a book, which is being translated into English. “He’s really the first Chinese dissident writer who has come up with a very detailed account of prison conditions including torture in China in the same way that [Soviet dissident Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn did in “The Gulag Archipelago,” Aikman said.
He also learned to play the xiao in prison, a type of flute with which he will perform Monday night, along with chanting segments of the poem, “Massacre” in Mandarin before it is translated into English for the audience.
Liao is also known for a book about Chinese Christians called “God is Red,” in which he interviewed and wrote about people persecuted for their religious beliefs in southwest China, Aikman said. One of the heroes of the book, a surgeon who performed operations under dangerous conditions in order to help people deprived of medical care, may be at the talk Monday, Aikman said.
The Chinese government has denounced Liao’s writing and banned it.
Liao will speak at the Barbara Hodel Center Coffee Shop at Patrick Henry in Purcellville at 7 p.m., and take questions afterward.