Jailed for Capitalism on the Street of Eternal Happiness

For Marketplace, Rob Schmitz tracks down an elderly couple after discovering their letters to each other written in the 1950s when the husband was in prison camp and the wife was raising their children in Beijing. The husband has since died and the wife is living in New York with her only son:

After reading these letters, I began looking for Wang and Li’s family. I start at their old home on The Street of Eternal Happiness, where an elderly neighbor tells me the family left years ago. “The father died,” she tells me, “but the mother’s still alive. She left China five years ago with her only son to go to America.”

I tracked down Wang Ming’s son in New York City. Before he agrees to talk to me, the son asks that his family’s real names not be used. He still has sisters back in China, and the family’s been through enough political trouble as it is.

Wang Jie is 56. He lives with his mother in the first floor of a house in the Chinese community of Flushing. Li Shuyun is now 87, she’s suffering from Alzheimer’s.Wang’s spent his life taking care of her — he never got married. Wang works at a factory in Queens, repairing cell phones, earning minimum wage.

It may not be the American dream, but Wang says he’s okay with that.

“After the hell my family has been through,” Wang tells me, “this is heaven.”


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