Writer’s Widow Thwarted in Beijing

From Times Wire Services

Chinese authorities filmed and followed the widow of U.S. journalist Edgar Snow and barred her from meeting Saturday with a woman who has campaigned for victims of the crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Lois Wheeler Snow had hoped to give a book of her husband’s photographs and writings, money and moral support to Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son was among those killed when troops crushed the pro-democracy demonstrations.

But plainclothes agents followed Snow’s car from her hotel to the People’s University in Beijing, where Ding lives, swerved in front of the car when it stopped at the school gates and watched and filmed while Snow, her son Chris and a friend tried to go inside.

As plainclothes agents hovered nearby, university security officials told the Snows and a friend of Ding’s who met them at the gate that she could not come in without official permission.


Meanwhile, inside the campus, about a dozen security agents prevented Ding, a retired professor, from leaving her home, Ding said in a telephone interview.

“They told me: “You can’t go out,” Ding said. “I said, ‘How can you be so cruel? She’s an old friend of China.’ ”

Snow, 79, lives in Switzerland and was Edgar Snow’s second wife. She first visited China in 1970 with her husband on his last visit before his death in 1972. She met Mao Tse-tung and Premier Chou En-lai, leaders Snow described in his 1937 book, “Red Star Over China.”

Ding said that preventing the meeting “not only damages the country’s image and prestige, it also shames the Chinese people.”


Five foreign journalists who approached Ding’s home were detained by police for several hours.

Snow, who arrived Friday, said she had stayed away from China since the Tiananmen bloodshed because “I did not want to be associated with the leaders who allowed such a thing to happen.”

She came back to visit a grave in Beijing where part of her late husband’s ashes are interred and to meet Ding--a decision that presented an embarrassing challenge to the authorities because Edgar Snow was highly respected in China for his reporting on the Communist Party’s struggle for power.

In 1936, Edgar Snow became the first Western journalist to interview Mao and other Communist leaders then known as “red bandits” for their guerrilla war that overthrew the Nationalists in 1949.


Ding has for years campaigned for a full accounting of the Tiananmen crackdown, compensation for victims’ families, and the prosecution of those responsible.

Snow gave an envelope containing $1,000, a statement of support and the book “Edgar Snow’s China” to Su Bingxian, Ding’s friend who met them at the school gate.