The son of a late marshal has become the latest person in the country to apologize for the persecution of his teachers and fellow schoolmates during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), through an online letter.
"I want to use the Internet to sincerely apologize to them," Chen Xiaolu, son of Marshal Chen Yi, wrote in a Monday letter on the alumni blog of the Beijing No.8 High School.
The elder Chen was given the rank of marshal for leading troops during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and during the Liberation War (1946-49). He was persecuted in the Cultural Revolution.
This came after several photos were posted on the blog on Sunday, showing that teachers from the school were denounced and tortured during the political campaign. The blog was posted by Huang Jian, secretary general of the alumni.
"I've been feeling directly responsible for the denunciations as I was head of the school's Cultural Revolution committee. I didn't dare stop the persecution for fear of being seen as a counterrevolutionary. It was terrifying," Chen wrote.
Huang said he was touched, as Chen has been the first among the offspring of the country's founding figures to speak up. "Chen was not directly involved in any of the violent persecutions, and it was common that many might have done worse. The apology will be read in front of the teachers who were persecuted at an upcoming alumni reunion."
Zhao Shilin, a professor of the School of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Minzu University of China, said Chen's apology sets a good example for others to follow, helping further promote the official retrospection on the Cultural Revolution. "Everyone who has been through that period should apologize for their wrongdoings," Zhao said, adding that several apologies have been made public from those who are in their 50s and 60s.
This confession came after Liu Boqin, a retired official in Jinan, Shandong Province, paid to print his apology in the Yanhuang Chunqiu magazine in June. Liu said that the chaos was not an excuse for his evil deeds and his apology is the painful result of reflection during the autumn of his life.
Zhao noted that this could help resist the rising favoring trend for the Cultural Revolution, whose proponents are misinterpreting the frenzy as democracy.
Chen said such violations of human rights should not appear again in China.
"It was not merely a mistake by top leaders. Everyone who participated in it should bear the responsibility and a sincere apology would purify the soul of our nation through self-reflection," Zhao said.