Olympic issues more personal for DA
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Along with the elegant bird’s nest stadium, the Beijing Olympics has shifted the international spotlight on criticisms of the country’s repressive government.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson and his wife Angela Liu Beeson suspect they’ve experienced things like tapped phone lines and intercepted e-mails in China firsthand.
Beeson met Angela the first year he was teaching law and business classes at the Beijing Technology and Business University from 1999 to 2002. She was working toward a graduate degree in economics, but she wasn’t his student.
They met in an “English corner” where Chinese students would round up any native English speakers and practice the language.
“In walks this tall, skinny, beautiful Chinese girl with this million-dollar smile from ear to ear,” Beeson said, bringing a bit of a blush to Angela’s face. “My first thought was, ‘Please come sit in my group.'”
She did. They spent time together over the next year and eventually the relationship developed romantically. Beeson asked her to marry him the day she got her graduate degree.
He said he saved up as much as he could from his “pittance” of $300 per month pay to buy a modest ring. The couple began working to get her a visa to come to the U.S. over the next year, while Beeson taught at the Cag University in Yenice, Turkey.
But the U.S. didn’t come before Beeson, an American 21 years older than Angela, would have to win over her Chinese parents. At times it seemed like there was no chance.
“At the beginning it was, ‘No ” you’re not going to do that,'” Angela said, describing her parents’ feelings.
Before adopting the American name Angela, her parents had named her Liu Juan. Her parents and other family still live in Shenyang, a city in northeast China with a population of more than 7.4 million.
To make a long story short, Angela first introduced Beeson to her parents as a foreign friend. Beeson later managed to win over Angela’s sister, who helped make the case to their parents. Her parents finally agreed to visit Beeson for 10 days in Beijing. Angela instructed him, “You’ve got to do all the Chinese things ” take them everywhere they want to go and pay for everything.”
Beeson wondered how he could do that on $300 a month pay. But somehow it worked out, and Angela’s parents are very happy with the marriage and their two grandsons, Zeke, 3, and Eli, 1.
Beeson said he’d “made a mess” of his adult life up to the point of his first year in China, when he once sat on a riverbank and prayed for one more shot at having a family. Now, he said, Angela, Zeke and Eli are “one of the greatest answers to a prayer I could ever dream of.”
Beeson said he didn’t think a boycott of the China Olympics would have accomplished much.
“I don’t think I would have supported a boycott,” Beeson said. “But I am bothered by how I think they have exploited a situation for worldwide acknowledgment at the expense of the little person.”
In one example, China recently sentenced two elderly ladies to a year in a labor camp for daring to apply for protest permits. They believed they didn’t get enough compensation when the government demolished their homes to make way for development.
Beeson said he’s had mixed emotions about this year’s Olympics ever since Beijing was first being considered. He said the government shut down all the factories in 2001 in the weeks before the International Olympic Committee visited Beijing to make a final decision. Just days after, the pollution was just as bad as it always was, he added.
“That’s the type of thing they did to try to get the Olympics,” Beeson said. “In my view, it’s a ploy to gain international respectability, and unfortunately I think it’s working.”
Angela said, “I’m kind of rooting for the American athletes now,” after allegations of China fielding an underage gold-medal gymnast. But she said her family, like most Chinese, are proud about the Olympics.
China’s handling of the Olympics and would-be protesters is just one small expression of the country’s underlying philosophies.
When Martin and Angela Beeson call Angela’s parents in Shenyang, China, they sometimes hear unusual clicks and suspect the Chinese government is monitoring the calls, Beeson said.
Once during time off from teaching, Martin went to Kunming in southwestern China and saw CNN footage in his hotel. He couldn’t get CNN in Beijing.
On the TV he saw followers of Falun Gong spiritual practice being rounded up in Tiananmen Square. An old man was beaten, kicked and hit with a baton before being thrown into a wagon, Beeson said.
He e-mailed Angela to ask if she saw the footage but she never received the e-mail. They think the government made it disappear.
Another time Beeson and a friend planned a boating trip down the Yangtze River. They traveled across part of the country, and someone organizing the boat trips handed them each packets with their name on it. They hadn’t mentioned their names or presented any identification.
“I love China. That’s my first country, but there are a lot of things …” Angela said.
Angela was shocked the first time she listened to a radio talk-show host criticizing President George Bush. She’d grown up used to the Chinese government controlling the media and forbidding anything close to such negative commentary.
Martin’s success in the 2005 recall of District Attorney Colleen Truden and the public criticism of a government official was also an eye-opener. In China no meaningful accountability of government officials or voting process exists, Angela said.
“It was a life-changing experience,” she said. “I told Martin I want to become an American.”
The greater freedoms in the U.S. didn’t escape the eyes of her parents, either, when they spent a year in the U.S. after Zeke was born.
Her mother had been pushing for Martin and Angela to move back to China. Even though her parents don’t speak much English, by the end of their visit her mother told Angela to stay in the U.S. because she would be happier here.
“They can feel the freedom here, for some reason,” Angela said.
But the couple may one day still end up living in China. They don’t know when that might happen, but they trust in faith and God to get them there.
“Our heart’s desire is to get back there permanently and teach,” Beeson said.
Angela hasn’t gone home to China in five years. She’ll be heading there on Sunday for three weeks with Beeson and their two sons. Her parents will get to meet Eli for the first time.
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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