The gang rape story is a much hyped key part of Ping Fu's Bend, not Break: A Life in Two Worlds. Although most readers who lived in China during that period would first react to this story with disbelief, it is generally considered a personal experience that someone who was not there cannot possibly disprove. Furthermore, it was such a horrific and gruesome crime, a reader would instinctively want to skip this part in the book, let alone challenging it.
My previous exchange on this website with some of the commenters about the rape episode was not based on her book's description (because I did not have the stomach to read this part), but rather on the reports in the media. It turns out that those reports in the media were not accurate, and painted a very different picture than the actual story told in the book.
It is a difficult decision whether to go into the rape story. On the one hand, it is true that most rape victims are reluctant to come forward. Any barrier to reporting would aggravate the problem. On the other hand, lying about rape is just as bad, if not worse, because it cheapens the suffering of the real victims, and makes it harder to help the real victim. After much deliberation, I decided that truth is more important, and I should not be desuaded by political correctness.
It was hard to bring myself to read the actual account of the crime, and I am not going to analyze those. There are inconsistencies in the parts of the story before and after the crime that would cast serious doubt on what really happened.
During the Cultural Revolution, Ping Fu and her younger sister lived in the dorm of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA). The dorm building was close enough to the edge of the campus of NUAA, that they could walk to a canal around the old city wall of Nanjing, across the street from the campus. Here is how the episode began (page 75):
One lazy, hot summer afternoon, as I lay resting in our room, I heard the voices of several children screaming outside, "Hong is in the river! Hong is in the river!" One of them called to me, "Ping, your sister is drowning!"This is where the first doubt arises. The river was outside the campus, across the street. (Here I removed the original discussion of whether this was a set up or not because now I realize that the original argument is not as solid as I first thought). Thanks to a netter familiar with this area of Nanjing, we know now that the river is about one kilometer away from NUAA. It was impossible for Ping Fu to have heard screams from the river if she was inside NUAA. If someone were to run from the river to NUAA dorm to get Ping, a round trip would have taken ten minutes. By then either her sister would be dead, or would have already been saved.
The only logical explanation that neither Hong was dead nor she was saved after the time it took for Ping to get there, would be that this was a trap to lure Ping Fu out. Such an elaborate trap means that the perpetrators knew Ping Fu very well. But the problem is, Ping Fu did not identify a single person in name. She named everyone both before and after this event, but hid the names of all the perpetrators.
After the whole ordeal of severe beating and gang rape, Ping Fu woke up in the health clinic of NUAA (page 77):
The next thing I remember, I woke up in the NUAA health clinic. A kind nurse told me that I had sustained "deep cuts, a broken tailbone, and internal injuries." It had taken more than forty stitches to close the wounds. I carry the scars to this day.It is highly doubtful that a health clinic in NUAA in 1968 had the X-ray equipment needed to diagnose the broken tailbone (and to make sure that she did not have other serious injuries). It is also highly unlikely that someone who sustained such serious injuries and was unconscious would be treated only at the clinic. She would have been sent to a hospital.
If one believes that she was only treated at the clinic, then one must accept the possibility that she was not seriously hurt. She may have been beaten but not raped.
To assume that people who brought her to the clinic, and those who treated her, did not report the crime, would be quite callous. It would be effectively accusing all these people to be part of the coverup of the crime. I cannot believe that's what happened.
In Nien Cheng's Life and Death in Shanghai, her daughter was raped by a rebel faction leader (造反派头头, these people are generally lumped together with the Red Guards in the west), and he murdered her in order to cover up the crime. In the official report, the daughter was said to have committed suicide. This leader was brought to justice more than ten years later, and received a suspended death sentence for this crime. Nien Cheng was not satisfied with this sentence, and believed that he should have been sentenced to death.
The reason that rapists often murdered their victims during the Cultrual Revolution, was that they knew that the punishment for rape was death penalty. Everyone knew this. That's why that no one reported the rape of Ping, depite so many people knew about it, was so incredible. If this story was true, then it was not an indictment of the Cultural Revolution, but an indictment of every Chinese, those who covered up the crime, and those who still refuse to believe it today.