The dreams of Ti-Anna

The dreams of Ti-Anna

On the anniversary of the bloody crackdown, a dissident's daughter still has hope


Ti-Anna Wang holds a photo of her father.
Ti-Anna Wang holds a photo of her father.
Photo: Silvio Carrillo/SCMP

While many daughters have the chance to celebrate their life's moments such as birthdays and graduations with their fathers, Ti-Anna Wang cannot. She is the daughter of mainland democracy activist Dr Wang Bingzhang.

"The last time I saw my dad was in December 2008, when I visited him in prison," says Ti-Anna Wang, 24, who was born and raised in Montreal, Canada, and has a degree in East Asian studies from McGill University there. She is now studying Putonghua at National Taiwan Normal University.

Since then, she has been denied entry into the mainland, even with a Chinese visa. But she still remembers that visit to her father.

"He asked me what books I was reading; he encouraged me to be ambitious and thanked me for taking time off from school to work on his release," recalls Wang, who was born in 1989 and whose parents named her to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown 24 years ago today.

Wang Bingzhang was born in 1947 in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, and after he graduated from Beijing Medical University, he went to McGill in 1979 for his doctoral degree. After completing his studies in 1982, he moved to New York to found China Spring magazine and co-found several overseas Chinese democratic parties. For almost 20 years, Wang dedicated his life to promoting pro-democracy activities in North America and around the world. On July 3, 2002, when Ti-Anna was just 13, he went missing.

"We heard that he was kidnapped while meeting with some labour activists in Vietnam and was forced onto the mainland. He went missing for six months when he was actually detained by police. Then he was charged with terrorism and espionage in a closed trial and sentenced to life imprisonment," she says.

In 2008, when most of her friends entered college, Ti-Anna took a year off and moved to Washington, DC.

"It was the sixth year of his imprisonment. My family became so fatigued in their campaign to free my father, and I was compelled to step up."

During the year, she worked with human rights organisations, lobbying the US government and speaking to the media. "I shared my father's story with whoever was willing to listen," she says.

But nothing has helped, and Ti-Anna says: "I felt as though I had failed my father."

However, an opinion piece she submitted to The Washington Post inspired Fred Hiatt, editor of the editorial page, to write a novel based on her story. Launched last month, Nine Days is about a girl named Ti-Anna who goes to Hong Kong with a classmate to hunt for her missing dissident father.

"The book launch was a new opportunity for me to talk about my father again," she says.

"I have faith that justice will ultimately prevail. I find strength in knowing that doing anything is better than resigning to being a victim."

She says she dreams of reuniting with her father and the family living a normal life.

"I miss my dad every day. If he was released, no words could convey the thoughts and feelings that would overwhelm me," she says.

"When that happens, all I can imagine doing is breathing a huge sigh of relief that his nightmare is finally over, and we can at last pick up the pieces and put our lives back together."

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