Author and former basketball player Kai Chen held up a dirty headband he found in Tiananmen Square. He translated the words on it into English: “Support the hunger strike, support equal dialogue.”

The Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989 was an important moment for Chen, who grew up under Mao Tse Tung, perhaps the most accomplished murderer in human history.

“A big reason that Tiananmen Square happened was during the 1980s, we have three mortal giants in the world: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul,” Chen said this weekend in Canoga Park, California, on the 24th anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling.

He was addressing the San Fernando Valley Patriots in a small but packed meeting room full of people ranging in age from about 10 to mid-90s.

When Chen asked if there was anybody in the room who had lived in socialist countries, the answers came back: Hungary, Romania, China. One defector from the Democratic Party shouted, “Berkeley.”

What united everyone in the room was that they all, like Chen, were well-educated (the youngest member of the audience publishes a locally known political newsletter) and passionate about defending freedom.

Chen told his audience that he was born American, just unfortunately in communist China, by which he means that people are born free. As a young man, he was chosen because of his height to be on the official Chinese state basketball team. But when Communist Party officials realized he had family in Taiwan, they removed him from the team, saying they couldn’t trust him.

Chen, 16 at the time, just wanted to play sports, so he looked for a regional team he could play for inside China. When his search took him too close to the border near Taiwan, the ever-present Communist observers arrested him. After some time in prison, he was released but was soon conscripted into the army.

Eventually, he was able to get to the United States and graduated from UCLA in 1986.

What made Reagan different from other presidents, particularly the current one, Chen said, is that Reagan was for the individual, not the government.

“Every time Ronald Reagan stepped on the podium,” Chen said, “he talked about freedom. … When he went to the Soviet Union, Reagan said, ‘I want to meet the dissidents.’ …

“Government itself doesn’t care about you. Government is about power. The bigger the government, the bigger the lie. Total government, like China, is a total lie.

“The entire country is a lie. I don’t want that to happen here. If it does, if America becomes like China, where are the freedom-loving people to go? The moon?”

Turning toward a group of college students, he added, “I feel a moral duty to tell you this.”

Chen lamented the current state of American politics, which he said has been brought down by the language of the Left:

“Socialism is evil, communism is evil. Who today is talking like that?”

The language used by Reagan was so powerful, Chen said, that it continued to shape politics into the Clinton years.

“Clinton had to say the era of big government is over,” Chen said. “Where does that come from? That’s Reagan. Today, vocabulary is from the Left. …

“That’s why Romney lost, because you can’t compete with Obama in promising government is going to give you things.”

Chen fears that the United States has made a mistake by accepting China as a full trading partner. By doing so, America is further compromising its principles and turning a blind eye to all the harm done in the name of communism.

Chen shared a picture of Chinese currency, dominated by a picture of Mao Tse-Tung, who is responsible for scores of millions of deaths.

“Mao is evil,” Chen said. “Socialism is evil. When we acknowledge that currency, we don’t see that evil.”

“… By accepting this currency, you accept one premise: That killing people by the millions to acquire power is acceptable. Once you see this face (Mao) and are unmoved, you are truly transformed from an individual to a zombie.”