Tsien-Chung Chou, activist for Chinese freedom

Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 3, 2001

Tsien-Chung Chou, activist for Chinese freedom

Tsien-Chung Chou, 98, a 20-year resident of Palo Alto, died Dec. 13.

An early activist for Chinese freedom and democracy and a scholar of history, Chou was advisor to the Chinese delegation to the United Nations from 1946 to 1971, Chinese National Assembly representative in education (1948 to 1988) and professor of European History at Szechwan University, Wuhan University, Shanghai University and Guangzhou's Chung Shaw University.

Born in the Chinese village of Hupei in 1902, in 1928, his sister sold family land and her own wedding ring to send him to graduate school at the Sorbonne in Paris. His classmates included Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone Beauvoir. While in Paris, he joined the fiercely idealistic and intellectual Chinese Young People's Party founded by fellow students Tseng Chi and Li Huang.

His passionate involvement in the Young People's Party, which believed in written discourse over armed revolution, greatly shaped his life. When Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, he donated his entire teaching salary toward freedom efforts in the Sino-Japanese War, a controversial action that landed him in prison.

After his release, he journeyed 1,400 miles to marry his childhood sweetheart, Yvonne Liu, a teacher in Hupei.

During World War II,, he and his family moved to remote areas in Szechwan and Chungking, where he wrote articles encouraging China's fight for freedom and democracy. His political activism led to involvement with leaders such as Chiang Kai-Shek, Mao Tse-tung, General George C. Marshall and Senator Stuart Symington.

After the war, he continued teaching history at several Chinese universities and was elected to the Chinese National Electoral Assembly. He participated in the birth of the United Nations in Paris and Geneva and became an adviser to the Chinese delegation, moving his family from China to New York in the 1940s.

After he retired from the UN in 1971, he maintained an active and scholarly life. When he and his wife moved to Palo Alto in 1979, his daily routine for the next 20 years always started with the 8 a.m. bus to Stanford's Hoover Library. Staff and students knew him well, and his courtesy desk was often piled high with over 200 books on European history and political science. Even at age 98, his favorite daily activity was reading biographies and the New York Times.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Yvonne Liu of Palo Alto; sons Peter Chou and Jimmy Chou and daughter Margaret Cheng; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

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