The trial of a man in his 80s for a murder he is accused of committing during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) in Zhejiang Province has sparked renewed debate over re-examining the period known as the "10 years of chaos" when many people were badly treated and sometimes killed for "wrong political thinking."
The People's Court of Ruian heard the case against a man surnamed Qiu, who is accused of killing a doctor surnamed Hong in 1967.
Monday's one-day trial, which was open to the public, heard that Qiu and several partners strangled Hong and later broke his limbs and buried his body.
"The charges against Qiu were filed in the early 1980s but Qiu managed to flee while the other suspects were arrested and convicted," Jin Xiuzhe, a press officer from the court, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Qiu was finally arrested in July by local police in Ruian, a county-level city under the administration of Wenzhou, ending his 30 years as a fugitive.
Jin refused to reveal further details of the case, saying he didn't "want to bring any pressure or disturb the judges."
"After the verdict is reached, we will open the whole case," he said.
Xue Zhongwei, a senior judge of the Ruian court who is not hearing the case, told the Global Times that the trail is being conducted according to law.
"The case was filed by public security organs in the early 1980s, so the charge was laid well within the 20-year statute of limitation," Xue told the Global Times.
The curious case has been met with strong and diverse reactions.
Some said Qiu should not be prosecuted for a crime that happened more than 40 years ago, while others said Qiu should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Many commentators said it is time to re-examine the historic period in an attempt to find resolution and atonement.
"It's not right to put the blame on individuals during a period when the legal system was almost nonexistent. Both the culprits and the victims were sacrificed by the political factions of that era," Wang Shun'an, director of the Institute of Criminology at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.
"The most shocking thing about the Cultural Revolution was the assault on human dignity. Insults, abuse, maltreatment and homicide were common. The social order was in chaos," said a commentary published by China Youth Daily on Wednesday, which called for a re-examination of the Cultural Revolution.
"Forty years ago, my father witnessed five farmers being beaten to death. We still have lingering fears due to the killers' cruelty," Han Youyi, a noted lecturer on judicial matters, said on his Sina Weibo on Wednesday.