Nadav Spiegelman

Victims of the Cultural Revolution

Author
Youqin Wang
My last highlight
2023-07-17
Number of highlights
21

My Highlights

The Resolution blames the Chairman for Leftist ideological theses, but unfettered research would surely reveal that he played a far more hands-on role, and was complicit in or assented to many of the misdeeds of the Gang of Four. The reputation of Mao Zedong could not be allowed to suffer such denigration; it is still too central to the legitimacy of party rule. The second reason has more to do with China than
The Resolution blames the Chairman for Leftist ideological theses, but unfettered research would surely reveal that he played a far more hands-on role, and was complicit in or assented to many of the misdeeds of the Gang of Four. The reputation of Mao Zedong could not be allowed to suffer such denigration; it is still too central to the legitimacy of party
In the late 1980s, when I was in Beijing producing a documentary film about the Cultural Revolution, a university professor refused to allow me to interview his wife, a victim, explaining: ‘One of the students who beat her back then now occupies a very high position. How can we dare to speak out? Please don’t bother us any more. Let us spend our remaining days in peace, won’t you?’ At the time, all I could see was his wife from the back, sitting in a wheelchair
This book should be treated as a companion volume to general histories of the Cultural Revolution. The most important of these volumes available in English include Mao’s Last Revolution, by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenals; The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Yang Jisheng; The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, by Frank Dikotter; and Turbulent Decade, by Yan Jiaqi and Gao Gao
18 August: Mao receives one million Red Guards at Tiananmen Square, an event broadcast live over radio and television. ‘Red August’: The rally at Tiananmen Square promotes the Red Guard movement to a revolutionary organisation present in every educational institution. Campus violence escalates and extends into the wider community in the ‘Smashing of the Four
18 August: Mao receives one million Red Guards at Tiananmen Square, an event broadcast live over radio and television. ‘Red August’: The rally at Tiananmen Square promotes the Red Guard movement to a revolutionary organisation present in every educational institution. Campus violence escalates and extends into the wider community in the ‘Smashing of the Four Olds’, which continues for two months.
The massacre of 1966 had several distinguishing features: the victims underwent no legal process – not even so much as a kangaroo court – before being killed; no written record was made of their deaths; they were not shot or beheaded by professional executioners, but were beaten with clubs or tortured to death; and most of the killings were perpetrated by teenagers who were authorised to torture, plunder and kill. Two years later, in 1968, guided by of a number of ‘memos
The deficiency of death records has resulted, perhaps intentionally, in a distorted picture of the Cultural Revolution. Eradicating all trace of the great majority of its victims has obviated the need to track the origins of the Cultural Revolution, which would necessarily implicate the highest leadership, as well as the ideology and social system that engendered it; this cannot be allowed in China
I wanted to impress on him that an ordinary person’s life was just as important as that of a senior official. Those in positions of power know the risks they face, but an ordinary school teacher had no reason to expect that a power struggle would become a matter of life and death to him. Yet I also realised that it was not a matter of this former teacher never having heard that ‘all human life is of equal value’; rather, having no opportunity to divulge what happened or to obtain justice for all these years, he had to regard himself as a second-class citizen in order to gain some release from the rage and repression he felt over his misfortune. I know of one family that in recent years experienced tragedy in the form of cancer and
It is because Mao Zedong’s corpse and image are still displayed at Tiananmen Square that the names of the Cultural Revolution’s victims must be suppressed, even on the Internet
According to my inquiries, it was at the universities that violent ‘struggle sessions’, ‘labour reform teams’ and informal prisons (later referred to as ‘ox pens’) first appeared on a major scale and developed even further. These persecution methods then spread throughout the country, leading to the deaths of untold numbers of people. It was university leaders who were first ‘ferreted out’ and subjected to ‘struggle’ during the Cultural Revolution. Prior to June 1966, the Cultural Revolution consisted of
The Peking University work group clearly reflected its intentions in an essay entitled ‘One-Month Situation Report Outline for the Cultural Revolution at Peking University’, published in newspapers on 3 July 1966. The outline stated that Peking University was a ‘key stronghold of the revisionist former Beijing Municipal Party Committee’. Lu Ping had ‘joined up with Peking University’s reactionary social foundation, relying on and making use of a large number of politically impure individuals, forming anti-Party factions and cliques to control the leadership at the university and departmental levels, and implementing a ruthless bourgeois dictatorship’. Peking University had become ‘stubbornly anti-Party and anti-socialist’ and ‘a stubbornly reactionary fortress where landlords, rich peasants, reactionaries, bad elements and Rightists flocked together.’ The outline said that the 18 June Incident ‘created chaos with the intention of throwing the work groups’ war preparations into chaos’ and ‘led the Cultural Revolution along the wrong road
On 1 August, Mao wrote a letter expressing his enthusiastic support for the Red Guards of the Tsinghua University Affiliated Secondary School and for Peng Xiaomeng of the Peking University Affiliated Secondary School.
In late July 1966, Mao accused Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping of ‘stultifying’ the Cultural Revolution and ordered the withdrawal of the work groups from all universities. After that, Jiang Qing and her cohorts went to Peking University several times, convening mass rallies and declaring the 18 June Incident a ‘revolutionary incident’. At one such rally on the evening of 26 July, in the presence of Jiang Qing and other Party leaders and before the full assembly of students and teachers, Peng Xiaomeng, a student at the Peking University Affiliated Secondary School, whipped work group leader Zhang Chengxian with a brass belt buckle, and Jiang Qing ardently embraced her. This was the first major and formal public occasion at which a student physically attacked a target of the Cultural Revolution, and it received immediate support and encouragement from the revolution’s top leaders
In June 1968, Peking University president Lu Ping was locked up in the university’s biological sciences building. It was claimed that he hadn’t followed all the necessary formalities when he joined the Communist Party in the 1930s, and his interrogators tried to make him admit to being a ‘fake Party member’ by hanging him from the rafters and beating him. He was interrogated around the clock, and the light in his detention cell was never turned off. Lu’s persecutors believed that if deprived of rest, Lu would eventually suffer a mental breakdown and speak the ‘truth
On the evening of 24 August 1966, Tsinghua University’s top leaders were locked up in the science building and then summoned one by one into a small room, where they were beaten bloody. Their detention continued into the next day, and only at noon was each one given a steamed corn bun, after being forced to say ‘The son of a bitch is eating a corn bun.
On the evening of 24 August 1966, Tsinghua University’s top leaders were locked up in the science building and then summoned one by one into a small room, where they were beaten bloody. Their detention continued into the next day, and only at noon was each one given a steamed corn bun, after being forced to say ‘The son of a bitch is eating a corn
Prior to 1949, university presidents were invariably scholars and professors who had not only obtained academic degrees but also had academic status and had made substantial contributions to their fields, in line with Western academic tradition. After 1949, the Communist Party seized control of the universities, dismissing the existing administrators and charging them with crimes. At the outset, the Party appointed Leftist scholars to replace them. For example, while Jiang Longji, a Party member since 1927, was appointed vice-president and Party secretary of Peking University in 1950, the president was economist Ma Yinchu, who had obtained his PhD in the US and had been an intense critic of the Chiang Kai-shek regime in the 1940s. When Ma promoted family planning policies in 1959, he was dismissed and replaced by Lu Ping, who became both university president and Party secretary. Jiang Longji was transferred to Lanzhou University, where he became president and Party secretary. Even before the Cultural Revolution began, the ranks of the university leadership had been quite thoroughly purged; leaders were no longer scholars but rather ‘political cadres’, while also possessing a certain degree of culture. After the
Cultural Revolution began, the university leadership was taken over by such people as Chi Qun and Xie Jingyi. Under their leadership, Tsinghua and Peking Universities compiled a set of policies towards intellectuals, which the CCP Central Committee then distributed nationwide to direct a campaign of often fatal persecution. Within the narrow timeframe of the Cleansing of Class Ranks alone, twenty-four people were persecuted to death at Tsinghua and Peking Universities
After classes had been suspended for five years, universities began to gradually reopen in the early 1970s. A large poster on the Peking University campus read: ‘Go to the university, change the university, use Mao Zedong Thought to remould the university.’ The most important and obvious aspect of ‘using Mao Zedong Thought to remould the university’ was administration by ‘military representatives’, which continued for more than ten years. It was only in 1978, after Mao’s death and at Deng Xiaoping’s direction, that presidents were once again appointed to run the universities
In 1966, bearing the official title of ‘university president’ or ‘academic board member’ constituted a crime in itself. To a certain extent, university administrators in 1966 were comparable to ‘landlords’ in 1950, ‘capitalists’ in 1956 or ‘Rightists’ in 1957 as groups targeted for ‘struggle’. As a university president and professor of philosophy, Li Da became a dual target