A Letter from a Chinese Volunteer at the NGO Forum on Women

I received Present Time and a letter from RC three or four days ago. Yet due to some heavy assignments required in my courses, I did not give them a close view until this afternoon. You may not believe I have been trying to put aside the memories and excitements I had brought back from the Forum in order to keep a concentrated mind at study. Yet now, everything comes back again. I feel myself back among these people and with your angelic counselors again. I also found my friends' articles in your publication. I feel great for them and their work.

In their e-mail, most of the counselors expressed their hearty gratitude toward our Chinese hospitality. I feel so touched by that, for I have heard that the mainstream of the Western media toward this Conference was negative. I even witnessed this at the Reference Center in Huairou. Some Western reporters popped up and accused some of our volunteers of being disguised spies. I was really upset that day. We had been trying so hard. And to tell the truth, at my college, as the fortunately selected, qualified (such as senior English majors) volunteers, we had been trained to do the specific interpretation concerning women's issues for three months. With the addition of these trainings, we had altogether forty-four periods a week, which was really up to our need. Yet we were so proud and, at the same time, envied by those who were not chosen. Everything is so pure among us. You can imagine how sad I felt for what I had heard and seen about the Western media, the only source, I think, through which most Western people get to know us. We simply want to be good. Yet why do they not speak the truth? Who do they focus on the trifling things and neglect the major achievements? Does it do good to either of us?

It was in this low spirit that I happened to attend my first support group, which was then something I had never heard of. Every other woman in the small group (all USers) spoke out about what troubled them most at that moment. They were so emotional that they all shed tears in the end. I was so engrossed in the inner feelings of another person, especially of those I encountered only for this once. However, conservative and self-restrained as most of us Chinese are, we seldom tell anybody besides our family of our troubled feelings, not to say crying before them. Well, I did not cry, yet I did find the courage to spell out my frustrated thoughts. They listened to me so attentively, and that made me feel so warm. "Some of our news is bad. We don't even trust them all." "Sometimes journalists carry with them some preoccupations, and sometimes they do it for certain political purposes." "We feel very sorry for that. I assure you I'll tell everybody I know how things really are when I go back."

At that moment I felt the world so wonderful, for there were some very nice people from another part of the world who cared about me, soothed me, and offered their sincere help. Instantly I fell in love with the Grassroots Tent and the people under it. I returned to my optimistic self again for I knew there were more people who only believed in truth.

That was the end of my mental trouble; yet not the end of the problem. One of the great virtues I have learned ever since I was young is "to try to spot the goodness in another person and you can improve yourself by learning from it." It is said those who always pick fault with others can hardly make any progress. And I always believe moralities between human beings also apply to countries in the community of the world. Isn't that the obligation of our news media to introduce others' goodness into our own countries?

One more thing I want to mention is in one e-mail on September 7, 1995. A counselor said, in regard to "the men linking arms in the rain to keep people away from the building" where Hillary Clinton was making a speech, that she saw "a line of loving and courageous souls putting aside their own comfort to protect the safety of the women and men inside the building." Her kindness and sincerity touched me so deeply. I was there in the yard that day, and I can assure her and others that those were not simply "men." They were school-boy volunteers from the local middle schools of Huairou. Their classrooms (those in No. 3 Middle School) had turned into workshop sites for the Forum. I felt so proud of the "loving and courageous souls," but agitated when thinking about how many people would misunderstand this and what stories certain people would make out of it.

People might never have thoughts about how much it means to us volunteers of China to be able to help a foreign guest, not to say the safety of a great many people. They may not know either how we wished for the success of the conference and the best impression we could get from them. Chinese, as it has long been our characteristic, tend to work as a whole group at important moments and bear at heart the interest and reputation of the whole nation.

Since it is impossible for us to sit in a support group again, I hope what I have said may be helpful to those still-bewildered delegates as far as that issue is concerned.

Before the Forum, I thought I knew the US well by reading books, listening to Voice of America, and watching CNN and American films. Yet at the Forum, I saw it is more beautiful in many aspects than I thought, and RC is one of the best things which adds to its beauty.

My friends and I all agree that people from Western countries are generally very nice people. However, most of them do not know much about China. So it is our aim to interpret more of our culture for them so that they can make their own judgment of what China really is, good or bad.

Best wishes to all counselors of RC.
Yours sincerely,
A Chinese girl-student


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07