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A Chinese son's hunt for his US father

Has anyone in the United States, especially in San Diego, Calif., heard of a Louis George or a George Lewis who was with the US Marines in Tientsin 35 years ago?

If so, his Tientsin-born son is longing to be reunited with him. Zheng Lianqun is nearly six feet tall, broad-shouldered, with brown eyes, aquiline nose, and a most engaging smile.

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For eight years, ever since his foster mother told him who his parents really were, he has had one overwhelming desire: to find his father and mother, to take up American citizenship, and to go live in the United States.

So far he has met with more rebuffs than successes. He has only the slenderest of clues to his family background and to the whereabouts of his father. But he persists. Here, as recounted in a recent interview, is his story:

Zheng Liangqun grew up in Tientsin (now known as Tianjin) as the only son of Zheng Deyao and Sung Huimin (Chinese women generally keep their maiden names after marriage). He knew he was not their real son, because his looks were entirely different from theirs.

His prominent nose, his deep-set eyes, and his fair skin identified him as being of mixed Chinese and American or European parentage. In school his classmates pointed their fingers at him, calling him "big nose" and "American."

When he came home and asked his parents why, they would simply tell him that the children were talking nonsense and that he was not to pay attention to them. During the years of Mr. Zheng's childhood and adolescence, Sino-American relations were in the deep freeze. Chinese troops had fought a war with American troops in Korea. The United States upheld the Taiwan-based government of Chiang Kai-shek as the legitimate government of all China. To the mainlanders, the United States was an imperialist paper tiger.

In short, it was not a good time to be known as an American in China. A husky youth, Mr. Zheng tried to get into the Army after he graduated from high school. He was turned down politely on the grounds he was an only son. But he suspects he was turned down because of his mixed-blood background.

He then did the next best thing. He volunteered to go work on a military farm in far-off Sinkiang (now Xinjiang) and spent four year there. The following year he returned to Tientsin and was assigned to a construction job outside the city. Then came 1971, the Kissinger and Nixon visits to China, and the opening of a US liaison office in Peking.

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Mr. Zheng's foster father had died 12 years previously. His foster mother decided the time had come to tell her son who he really was.

Mr. Zheng's real father, she said, was a marine she had never met and whom she knew of only as "George." He had come to China in 1945, had met and married a Chinese girl of 20 named Li Shuzhen. Then, in October of 1946, he was shipped back to the US, leaving his pregnant wife. In February 1947 Mr. Zheng was born, and in May his mother went to San Diego to join his father, leaving her infant with her own mother.

From 1947 to the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, letters and occasional gifts of money arrived from America. Since then, all contact has been lost. Through friends of his mother, Mr. Zheng was given to the Zhengs to adopt.

Ever since hearing this history, MR. Zheng has been consumed by one passion: to find his real parents.

First, he discovered his real grandmother, Cui Xiuzhen, and went to live with her. Then he unearthed Chinese friends of his father, who told him his full name was either Louis George or George Lewis. He made repeated trips to the American Embassy (then the US liaison mission) in Peking to try to establish his identity.

He wrote President Carter, the mayor of San Diego, and the US military-records office, trying to trace his father. All, so far, to no avail.

His frequent absences from Tientsin cost him his construction job.

The Chinese authorities, he says, have placed no obstacles in the way of his going to the United States.

It is the US authorities who require much more substantial proof than he is who he says he is.


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