book review: A Heart For Freedom

Title: A Heart for Freedom

Author: Chai Ling

Publisher: Tyndale House

Complimentary Copy Received from Tyndale House Publishers

Rating: A

Publisher’s Review:

The dramatic and fascinating story of Chai Ling, commander-in-chief of the student protesters at Tiananmen Square and witness to the massacre of thousands of Chinese civilians. Risking imprisonment and possible death for her leadership role in the student democracy movement, she was on the run in China for ten months while being hunted by the authorities. She eventually escaped to the U.S., completed her education at Princeton and Harvard, found true love, and became a highly successful entrepreneur. But her desperate quest for freedom, purpose, and peace—which she had sought in turn through academic achievement, romantic love, political activism, and career success—was never satisfied until she had an unexpected encounter with a formerly forbidden faith. Her newfound passion for God led to her life’s greatest mission: Fighting for the lives and rights of young girls in China.

Some people bear a greater degree of suffering in this world. Some people, when presented with an opportunity to be a part of a movement much bigger than themselves, have the courage to respond. Chai Ling has known a great degree of suffering  in her life, and has been a part of events much larger than herself. And the world is becoming a better place as a result.

A Heart for Freedom is both Ling’s memoir and mission statement. Within the pages of this complex autobiography lies the story of a woman living in a society one the verge of change—change ushered in by thousands of students from across China. Ms. Ling, a college student at Peking University at the time of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, finds herself at the center of activity, thrust into a key leadership role. As a result, she is placed on China’s Most Wanted list and hunted for nearly a year. By stowing away on a boat, Ling found temporary refuge in France, during which time she received refugee status to America. Ling’s transition to America is full of difficult adjustments and sacrifice as she begins climbing the corporate ladder in an effort to achieve the American Dream.

From an outsider’s perspective, Ling “has it all”: receiving degrees from Princeton and Harvard, marrying and beginning a family, starting a successful multi-million dollar business, and receiving two Nobel Peace Prize nominations. Yet her heart longed for more … a yearning for something deeper than material success or accolades. When a friend shares her journey of faith with Ling, Ling’s heart finds fulfillment, healing, and peace. As Ling’s faith in God grows, she finds renewed purpose and passion: to save the discarded girls victimized through China’s one-child policy.

Combining her passion for elevating the condition of the people in China with her desire to rescue women and girls from victimization, Ling now utilizes her experience in activism, business, foreign affairs, and knowledge of Chinese cultural practices to bring hope and justice to the women of China, as founder of All Girls Allowed, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the injustice of gendercide occurring as a result of China’s family planning policies.

A Heart for Freedom, will take every reader through a rollercoaster of emotions. With brute honesty, Ms. Ling bears her soul as she recalls the highs, lows, betrayals, fears, mistakes, uncertainties, and joys of living the life she was destined to lead. (Did I find the attention to detail a bit much during the sections relating to the Tiananmen Square protests, yes. But whoopee-do and so what. Just skim through it.) What is clearly evident throughout Ling’s memoir is the way God used her experiences to prepare her for a great purpose. Ling’s early experience and later efforts marry perfectly to raise awareness for one of the greatest tragedies facing modern times: gendercide.


Gendercide in China

Here is where I admit my naïveté, I had no idea China still enforced the One-Child Policy. (Um, this is the 21st Century, right? Is it not 2011?) In China, women and couples must be granted permission to have a baby by the local Family Planning Committee. Any unmarried or underage woman found pregnant is forced to have an abortion. Any married woman who becomes pregnant after the birth of a son, will be coerced into abortion. (Some exceptions apply, such as in rural areas, but overall the policy is strictly enforced.)

As a result of China’s Family Planning policies:

  • Every 2.5 seconds a baby is aborted
  • Everyday hundreds of baby girls are abandoned
  • Everyday 500 women commit suicide
  • In the past 30 years, four-hundred million (400,000,000) forced abortions have been performed as a result of the One Child policy
  • Every year China (and India) eliminate more girls than are born in the United States

Through the work of All Girls Allowed, Chai Ling is committed to seeing the end of gendercide, infanticide and the abandonment of babies based on sex. All Girls Allowed seeks to restore life, value and dignity to girls and mothers by assisting pregnant women, and revealing the injustice of China’s one-child policy.

For more information, and to get involved, please visit, All Girls Allowed.

(A copy of this book was provided, for free, by the Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)


3 thoughts on “book review: A Heart For Freedom

  1. Let G. says:

    Thank you for sharing your review on Chai Ling’s book. Almost all the reviews I have read on the net are all positive. This book is a compelling biography recommended for everyone, most especially those who are interested in China’s history and those who are struggling with failure, hurt and shame. This book is an excellent resource for all seekers who search for true meaning and purpose while battling our private fears and regrets. We have included this in our collection at, heaps of books can be found here which can be used as a tool for evangelism.

  2. Nish says:

    This is just terrible to hear. China does have a massive population so I understand the need to enforce the 1-child rule, but why not encourage better preventive methods? Abortion is traumatic enough without having it forced on you

    • Su says:

      Nish, I agree…horrible. Chai Ling shares (repeatedly) that sex education is not provided to the masses. Birth control methods are not discussed or taught in school or college. (Well, at least they weren’t in Ling’s context in the late 80’s early 90’s.) I am glad to see she is allowing God to use what was once considered a shameful secret in her life to reach and help other women.

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