Who do you go see to get back 20 years of your life? David (Xing Long) Bao was among the millions of victims of communism. During the Cultural Revolution in China he was sent to a labor camp after fellow students accused him of being a “Rightist,” a person who voiced his opinions on what was good for China.
His punishment: twenty years of hard labor in the countryside of China, working in rice fields and producing bricks in a kiln fueled by methane gas. The bricks were used to build housing for the prison guards who denied Bao and his fellow prisoners their freedom.
Born in 1936 in Shanghai, China, Bao spent much of his youth in Hong Kong and Macao with his father after World War II. Returning to Shanghai to study physics at Nanjing University, Bao was close to completing his degree in 1958 when he was arrested and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor. During that time, he lost contact with his family, who left China for the safety of Hong Kong.
President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1973 with Henry Kissinger created the opportunity for Bao to leave prison and stay in Shanghai under house arrest until 1979.
There he tutored privately, even though it was not allowed by communist authorities. Some time after Mao’s death in 1976, Bao received a letter of exoneration and then his degree from Nanjing University.
Bao was made a full professor at Tongji University, given tenure and credited with more than 20 years of service for the time he spent in the labor camps. At the request of Tongji University, Bao taught computer languages.
Despite the upturn in his fortunes, Mr. Bao didn’t want to risk another change in direction for China and the possibility of once again being punished under false charges. In 1981, he decided to visit his sister living in the United States. Despite having a young daughter in China, Bao made the decision not to return to China. He became a visiting scholar at the University of Washington. From there, he made his way to Raleigh, North Carolina and a position at North Carolina State University where he was the visiting scholar in biological energy using methane gas.
In Raleigh in 1991 Bao met the woman who would become his wife, Katherine MacLean Maxwell. Descended from a long line of Scottish settlers in the Carolinas, Maxwell first hired Bao and then helped him with his efforts to bring his daughter to the U.S. Maxwell, herself the mother of a daughter about the same age as Bao’s daughter, had some familiarity with the challenges Bao faced as a recent immigrant to the U.S. and little knowledge of English. She had assisted other immigrant families with their assimilation in America.
After five years, their efforts to secure a visa for Bao’s daughter were successful. She arrived in the U.S. in 1986 at the age of 9, also not speaking English. Today Shelly Maxwell Bao is a lawyer in Wilmington, NC. Maxwell’s daughter Susan Maxwell Reeves works in the family business, Reca International.
Bao is a generous supporter of the TFAS educational programs because he appreciates from personal experience the value of freedom and limits on government. He understands the importance of the U.S. serving as a beacon of liberty in the world, offering hope to people everywhere who don’t enjoy basic human rights. He wants to help insure that these values are taught to the rising generation, so that the U.S. continues to be an exceptional country standing strong for freedom.
Mr. Bao’s stunning story of survival and commitment to personal liberty gives him a perspective on freedom that most of us will never fully appreciate. He values both personal liberty and education very highly. It is for these reasons he has become a generous supporter of TFAS and its mission to educate college students in the benefits of limited government and a free-market society.