Patriotic Chinese writer draws ire after trying to enroll her kid at an American school

Society & Culture
Yuan Xiaoliang, from her Weibo account

Yuan Xiaoliang 袁小靓 made a name for herself by bashing democracy. In 2013, she called India a nation “raped” by democracy, and said Chinese fans of Apple products were American “slaves.” A year later, she wrote, “Despite how good America is, it is someone else’s motherland. No matter how bad a mother China is, it is my home. I don’t need a reason to love her and protect her, yet there are reasons aplenty.”

Her pro-China stances on social media have been widely cited by Chinese state media. In an article published on in 2012, Yuan called herself the “chairwoman” of the 50-Cent Party — a moniker given to those who voice online support for the Chinese Communist Party and China in general. (For what it’s worth, Yuan also claimed to have not made a cent from the Chinese government.)

So how to explain this? On May 22, she posted to Sina Weibo, where she has 400,000 followers, a note of praise for the American education system.

These past few days I’ve been trying to enroll my child at an American school, and now I totally get what’s going on. It doesn’t matter whether you rent or own a place, as long as you have a bill with your name and address, the public school in your district must accept your child for enrollment, for free. It doesn’t matter if you’re an illegal immigrant, a tourist, a green-card holder, or a U.S. citizen. Regardless of your immigration status, regardless of whether you’ve paid taxes to the United States government, (public) schools must take your child free of charge. As for private schools, it’s even easier, all’s fine as long as you have money.

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Yuan’s post was compared with another one also trending on Weibo: Zhang Xiaolong, a wealthy entrepreneur in Beijing, complained that he couldn’t get his child into a Beijing school because of the country’s household registration system, or hukou. Kids without local hukou can enroll only after presenting numerous documents, but they won’t be eligible to sit for the college entrance exams in Beijing.

Zhang deleted his original post, and later apologized for creating concern and trouble for people, and that he did not intend to offend anyone living in Beijing.

Yuan appears to have also deleted her original post — probably because of the outrage it also caused. Many called her a hypocrite for trying to send her child to the U.S. One commenter wrote:

She made money by bashing the U.S. while in China. And after getting enough money to immigrate to the U.S., she begins to laugh at China. This is the path of success for patriotic Chinese writers.

Other commenters threatened to report Yuan’s U.S.-bashing history to American immigration authorities. While free speech laws prevent the U.S. from deporting someone for publishing critical comments online, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act, those who commit fraud in application documents may be subject to removal. Commenters suspect Yuan might have committed fraud in her visa application.

In a long article defending herself and explaining her beliefs, Yuan calls herself an uninhibited and unorthodox woman who does not follow mainstream ideologies and will speak out against what she doesn’t like. She said she’s concerned about food safety and the environment, but that “my Chinese heart is unalterable.”

“No matter which country I roam in, China is my motherland: this fact is unalterable,” she wrote.

I’ve been on Weibo for eight years. And many of my followers sent me private messages saying I’ve changed. Indeed I did. I praised China more in the past, now I’ve started to criticize this country more. Online public opinion has also changed. More people criticized the country in the past, and now there are more voices praising it. I am not the kind of person who likes to follow mainstream ideologies.

Yuan is not the only patriotic writer who doesn’t exactly practice what is preached. Sima Nan 司马南, a Chinese leftist who has before written, “The US is the enemy of the people of the world; it exploits all countries in the world, just like a global tumor,” reportedly has property in the U.S., which is also where his wife and children supposedly live. Furthermore, former and current Chinese officials often send their children to receive educations abroad. Bo Guagua, the son of former senior Party official Bo Xilai, completed his Bachelor’s degree in Oxford and Harvard and has a law degree from Columbia. Xi Jinping, the current Chinese president, sent his daughter to study at Harvard.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, from 1986 to 2016, roughly 1.7 million Chinese-born citizens immigrated to the United States. According to a 2011 CNN report, many rich Chinese elites want to move to developed countries, such as the U.S. and Canada. The public knows and mostly accepts this reality, but they reserve their anger for patriotic writers like Yuan who take a strong political stance while then making a contradictory action.

As one Weibo user commented under Yuan’s post: “Many patriotic individuals wish to see your U.S. visa cancelled so you can build the socialist economy with us after you’re repatriated.”