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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Eyewitness: Cultural Revolution
Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary since the start of China's bloody Cultural Revolution.

Survivors from the decade-long turmoil recounted their experiences for the BBC's Chinese Service.


When the Cultural Revolution started, I was 15 or 16 years old. Usually I didn't like to join such a political movement, because my background wasn't good.

One day I went to school... and one of my classmates... reported me to the Red Guards, for he wished to join them. He told them I was hiding an anti-revolution diary.

I was held by them, and Red Guards went on to raid my home.

My heart was filled of hate, I wondered why he sold me out? I promised myself that I would get revenge some day. In 1967, as the bourgeoisie became the target... I was cleared of previous accusations.

Using this chance, we formed our own faction of Red Guards. Those sons and daughters of high ranking officials, their faction of Red Guards were notoriously extreme left wing. Neutral teachers and most students supported us.

We had advantages; the hostile faction was not too happy about it. There were some scattered armed struggles.

Early on the morning of 25 July 1968, they gathered about 100 children of high ranking officials and stormed into our school from the back... Using home-made spears they wounded two of our girl students - one of them needed to be sent to emergency care...

With adrenalin rushing into my head, straight away I went to the school factory with a dagger attached to a steel pole... I remember vividly, I was at the front with a spear in my hand.

We managed to hold them in a small school building for two or three days. They didn't have food and the water had been cut off as well. Then the Party officials in Shanghai broke us up.

During the fight, I had my revenge, I beat up the students in the hostile faction; I slapped the face of the classmate who sold me out.

What made us behave in this way? Firstly it was the system, secondly it was because we were young, childish and fanatical. Why did the classmate of mine say I was hiding an anti-revolution diary? It wasn't necessarily that he made the story up. Maybe he saw me as an enemy of the class - we were taught things like that for such a long time.

Also maybe he wanted to be recognised, because he wanted to join the revolution. As [Hong Kong academic] Professor Ding Xue Liang said, from a certain aspect, the Cultural Revolution was an act of revenge between human beings. I agree, but it wasn't just that.


My father came back from America in 1948. He was a physician in the United States - a very honest and conscientious doctor.

Because he had been in America, he was accused of being an American spy. What was the evidence? He had a radio. They said it was a radio-transmitter and someone actually saw him sending information.

It was nonsense, of course, but he was then locked into a room. He was interrogated and beaten.

I myself didn't see my father being tortured. But I was told he was covered in a cotton duvet and beaten so that he couldn't see the people doing the beating.

Once a nurse in his hospital shoved a mop into my father's mouth and shouted 'You talk about hygiene - now I will give you a good brush of your teeth!' That was terrible. Could my father bear it? Of course he couldn't .

My father died in 1968. It was suicide, they said - hanging from a radiator. But we can't be certain. He was 60.

I was not by my father's side when he died. My mother didn't tell me. She was worried that if I came back home I would be arrested and tortured. I felt so sad, but what could I do?

My mother was also severely beaten because of my father. It was so bad there was blood in her urine. My mother was defiant but that made them torture her more.

I was about to graduate from university at the time. Because of my father I was sent to a remote county and stayed there for 12 years.

During that time, people were taught to be suspicious of everything, everyone. People saw each other as potential enemies. That had a long lasting damaging effect on Chinese society.

Deng Xiaoping later said that there should be no more political movements. I really support this policy. It's very easy to go to extremes with political movements.

We should now focus on economic development. If we had the policy we have now, my father would not have suffered.


I was in my third year of the university when the Cultural Revolution started.

A few good friends of mine and I categorised ourselves to be the so-called 'on-lookers'. We agreed that we would never get involved in any rebellious activities. We decided to keep well out of it.

However when the purge began, we were labelled an anti-revolution clique without any reason.

This I thought was absolutely ludicrous, and they accused us of attempting to assassinate Chairman Mao.

We were never in any way against Chairman Mao, never ever! However we were confined to isolation and forced to confess. What a way to suffer!

They wanted us to confess two things - firstly how we would approach Mao, secondly how we would get the weapon to do that? It was impossible to make up answers to their accusations.

We were in absolute denial in the beginning. But after they beat us up so badly, I couldn't bear it any more. I couldn't sit up or sleep. So I decided to take my own life.

On 7 June 1968, when the guards were not looking, I jumped out of the window from the second floor. One of my friends, who jumped a few days later, died immediately on the spot.

I was sent to hospital. They needed to operate on me. A trainee doctor stitched me up after the operation, but left three surgical bandages inside. That caused infection to my foot and I developed suppurative osteomyelitis, it was so painful.

The Special Inquiry Group said to me that if I didn't confess my crime, they wouldn't change the dressing for my wound.

The weather was baking hot. Because they didn't change the dressing, there were a lot of pus coming out. The flies fed on it and then there were maggots crawling in and out of my wound. It was disgusting to look at.

But the Special Inquiry Group said to me: 'You should be grateful because you are in our hands, otherwise you would be beaten to death if the people outside [the Red Guards] knew your crime.'

It was true in a way. If the revolutionary people knew that we were going to assassinate Chairman Mao, we would be doomed! What a crime! Later we were arrested. That was in 1970. We were kept in a detention centre.

Around that time people were dragged out and shot in large numbers in Shanghai - sometimes 50 people in one go. A serious crime like ours' was enough for them to execute us.

It was said that the Shanghai Revolutionary Committee read the document about our crime. It dawned on them that it was a forced confession. Therefore, our lives were spared.

I hope we can draw lessons from this and such a thing will never happen again. We should set up a museum for the Cultural Revolution and keep the historical records for future generations. Everyone should learn from the lessons.


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