Yang Shuping’s graduate speech at the University of Maryland drew vitriol from Chinese internet users.
Julia Hollingsworth reports: A Chinese student in the US who praised America’s fresh air and freedom of speech in her graduation speech has apologized after Chinese internet users accused her of belittling her own country and told her never to return to China.
Yang Shuping studied at the University of Maryland and delivered her speech on Sunday celebrating the freedom of speech and democracy she enjoyed in the United States.
“People often ask me, why did you come to the University of Maryland. I always answer, fresh air,” she began, prompting laughter.
“I grew up in a city in China where I had to wear a face mask every time I went outside, otherwise I might get sick. However the moment I inhaled and exhaled outside the airport, I felt free … at the University of Maryland.”
Yang, who graduated with dual degrees in psychology and theatre studies with a minor in German, continued: “I would soon feel another kind of fresh air for which I will be forever grateful. The fresh air of free speech. Democracy and free speech should not be taken for granted. Democracy and freedom are the fresh air that is worth fighting for.
“Freedom is oxygen. Freedom is passion. Freedom is love. And as a French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said, ‘freedom is a choice.’ Our future is dependent on the choices we make, today and tomorrow. We are all playwrights of the next chapters of our lives. Together we write the human history. My friends, enjoy the fresh air and never ever let it go.”
Yang’s speech sparked a backlash in China as internet users accused her of “belittling” and “discrediting” China in the US.
“I feel so ashamed of her humiliating our country in front of the whole university. China is such a great developing country and I’ve always been proud of being a Chinese. I don’t understand why the hell she’s doing this. What a loser,” wrote one Chinese commenter on YouTube, which is blocked in China.
Another commenter wrote: “She deserves a green card and [to] stay in US forever.”
Others said she was lying about China’s air quality as her home town of Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province is known for its fresh air compared with other regions in the country … (read more)