Commentary: A gay Chinese survivor’s journey to world of the American dream

By David Trott
Former member of Congress

Recently, I was a guest lecturer at a university and spoke on American Politics. One student was a young man who had immigrated  from China. The professor told me afterwards he was one of the brightest students in the class.

The young man. recently told me the story of his experience in China and shared his dreams. He hopes to go to law school and pursue a career in public service. Here is his story.

Two years ago, I found myself trapped in a nightmarish world of interrogation and imprisonment, a victim of the Chinese government's relentless pursuit due to my advocacy for freedom and LGBTQ+ rights. I was threatened with lifetime imprisonment and even the death penalty. Eventually, I managed to escape to the United States, became an asylum seeker and a top student at a prestigious university, and soon a U.S. permanent resident. This is my story, a testament to my resilience and unwavering belief in the American dream.

Childhood and Growing Pains

Growing up in one of China's poorest villages, I faced the harsh reality of being a gay son in a working-class family. I knew being myself would be impossible as my father almost strangled me to death one time for trying to shield my bruised and dying mother from his relentless kicks. Seeking refuge in school only led to relentless bullying and physical abuse, as my "not manly enough" behavior became a target for mockery and violence.

Just when everything took a turn for the worst, my mom filed for divorce and I was left in a house filled with the smoke of nicotine, and an addictive dad who lashed out at me with fists, whips, and hammers after he lost another round of Counter-Strike. In the depths of despair, I stumbled upon Stephen Colbert's “The Late Show,” which introduced me to a place called America where being gay was accepted, and the police protected those facing domestic abuse. This revelation ignited a passion for politics and gave me the courage to confront 60 of my angry nationalist classmates about how they had been misled with hatred by the Chinese Communist Party narrative and forgot America had the kind intention of making Chinese people freer through trade.

The backlash was swift and harsh—I was branded an "American dog," reported to teachers, and even occasionally dragged to the corner of the school by my enraged CCP-supporting classmates and assaulted. Strangely, their attempts to silence me only fueled my determination to delve deeper into politics. My motivation was so strong that it turned me from the worst student with an F in English to the best student in the class who could watch CNN for 12 hours without subtitles. Eventually, I entered college in the top 1 percent among 600,000 seniors.

Persecutions by the CCP

It was from there that I found acceptance by joining one of the largest LGBTQ+ rights organizations as an intern, aiding a community suffering from government persecution and torture. Yet, I was accused of human trafficking and being an American spy (in their view, LGBTQ+ advocacy=Western Espionage) by the Chinese police just because I helped a sheltered transgender woman escape the swine cage her family was keeping her imprisoned. Praying it would be the end of my persecution by the Chinese government, little did I know that it was just the beginning of a series of nightmares.
Several months later, as I sat in the college cafeteria, I received a phone call that would change the course of my life. Initially dismissing it as a potential scam, the gravity of the situation hit me when the Chinese Ministry of State Security revealed detailed information about my parents—names, professions, and addresses. The implicit threat was clear: non-cooperation would not only lead to my expulsion from university, but also result in the imprisonment of my parents.

Terrified, I inquired about a meeting location, only to be informed, "We're already on our way to your school." I entered a black car to find two men, and my phone displayed a frustrating "Could not send messages, click to try again" as I attempted to seek help. They took me to a "teahouse" where I was coerced into signing a document, granting the government authority to punish me with penalties ranging from 10 years in jail to the death penalty if I disclosed false information or spoke about the interrogation.

Over three grueling hours, they interrogated me, rifling through my phone and compelling me to provide contact information about my friends, callously stating, "If they have a problem, there is nothing you can do to help them." They questioned my sexuality due to my internship in LGBTQ+ advocacy, insinuating sinister intentions, and threatened me “You are trying to study abroad, right? If you can't explain this matter clearly, we will take you directly to the custody station for interrogation, who else do you think can help you?”

Once the interrogation concluded, they drove me back, reminding me that the NDA-like document I signed was “a promise to the CCP and the nation.” Returning to school was tough. I couldn't bring myself to talk to my roommates or friends for a whole week. Fear consumed me—every day, every moment. I was terrified that Chinese intelligence would somehow find out I wasn't being entirely truthful, and they'd show up at my school to take me away. For nearly a month, my nights were spent crying quietly under my blanket, overwhelmed by the dread of what tomorrow might bring. I felt utterly alone, unable to share the heavy burden I was carrying, afraid that speaking out about the interrogation would only make life worse for me.

The following year, after returning to my hometown, fear gripped me so intensely that I applied for a leave of absence and transferred to a U.S. college. My anxiety reached a peak when, following a successful visa interview at the U.S. Embassy, I was intercepted by government officials at the train station.

As they scanned my ID, surprise painted their faces, and they demanded, "What's the purpose of your visit to the U.S. Embassy?" I explained that I was there to secure a student visa to the U.S. Their response was a mix of anger and mockery, "Still dreaming of going to the U.S.? Stay put!" They confiscated my ID and confined me to a solitary cell for “quarantine”, an unusual move since most people were placed in a quarantine arena housing thousands. For five days, they subjected me to harassment at 4 a.m., served me cold meals, and refused to provide any information about when I might be released.

Finally, after five grueling days, the Chinese national government canceled the quarantine, the pretext they had used to imprison me. On my way out, they delivered a warning, "Your COVID test results were all negative. You know exactly why you've been held for so long." At that moment, I realized it was no longer safe for me to stay in China—both the central and local governments were closing in on me. Boarding a flight to America, I spent the night before in the airport, plagued by the fear that they might arrest me on the very last day.

A Future Unchained

My arrival in a foreign land did not dispel my fears. However, the unwavering support of friends, professors, and the legal system guided me to seek asylum and made me for the first time feel treated with respect without being rich or powerful. I saw in person that police here would defend people with bruises and blood instead of dismissing them as “familial internal conflicts.” The term “domestic violence” finally entered my vocabulary and motivated me to establish an anti-domestic abuse organization and continue my advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community here in America. And I was able to marry the man I love thanks to a system that was not always perfect, but trying to improve itself by constantly incorporating the voices of people who were once left out.

Through my past ordeals, I've come to appreciate the profound impact of politics on personal lives. Now, I am determined to utilize my abilities to contribute towards its improvement, helping America shine brighter. My goal is not only personal resilience, but also to broadcast a message of hope to the people of China and the world—freedom persists as long as those who believe don’t give up fighting for it.

Note: I have chosen to remain anonymous to protect my loved ones from the vengeful retribution of the CCP, a regime notorious for its brutal torment of dissenters' families.

But my untold story will not wilt in this temporary silence. One day, the scattered pieces of my narrative will come together as I step from the shadows. The CCP's tyrannical grip on freedom-loving people will crumble, and a world where liberty burns bright will shine.

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