Red Guard atones for criminal past in hopes for better future Published: 2014-1-14 16:34:00

          Editor's Note

The Cultural Revolution (1966 – 76) was a nightmare that continues to this day in the hearts of those that experienced it first hand. It is also part of a dark past that China must face. Many numbered among the Red Guards committed heinous crimes, yet only several have apologized to their victims publicly. Only when individuals stand up and bravely admit to their faults can we avoid making the same mistakes in the future.


● GT editorial
Red Guard apology triggers wide reflection
Song and Chen bravely making such individual apologies offers a chance for everyone in society to streamline their relationship with the Revolution. The launch of the Cultural Revolution was Mao Zedong's mistake, but it was also a mistake made by China as a group, where dishonor and shame of many individuals are also included. How to insist on integrity in a "chaotic" era should be another lesson that every Chinese needs to learn.

It is still unclear as to whether Song Binbin's apology is mere ceremony or a call for those involved to bravely face and reflect on their past, Yang Gengsheng,a news commentator, said in an opinion piece published on

Whatever the case, history and society are now bearing witness to those who committed crimes during that disastrous period 40 years ago attempting self-reflection, Yang commented.

The Cultural Revolution saw passionate young people act against their conscience in a society that confused right and wrong and turned facts on their heads, Ren Dagang, a social commentator, wrote in the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post on January 14.

Many chose to keep silent afterwards despite their heavy hearts, wrote Ren, who echoed Song in saying, "If we do not apologize to the victims now, we may never have the chance."

Ren added that although time can heal physical wounds, emotional trauma can only be healed through recognizing and apologizing for past mistakes. This is the only way to find peace.

While Song Binbin still remains a controversial figure, her call to reflect on the mistakes made during that period is an important one, the Southern Metropolis Daily commented on its official microblog January 13.

Only those who personally experienced the Cultural Revolution and are brave enough to reflect on their past can piece together the truth. This truth will provide a basis for future introspection.

Zhu Dake, professor and literary critic at the Culture Criticism Research Center
at Tongji Unversity, commented on its microblog January 13 that albeit a little late, the long-anticipated apology from Song Binbin is worthy of praise.

Zhu argues, however, that ethically speaking, a personal apology only heals the one apologizing. "What China should expect is an apology from the system that allowed the Cultural Revolution to happen in the first place and can prevent this disaster from repeating in the future," writes Zhu.

          Who apologizes?

Liu Boqin, a retired official in Jinan, Shandong Province, published his apology in the Yanhuang Chunqiu magazine in June of 2013 for raiding the house of one of his classmates in 1966.

The son of Chen Yi, Chen Xiaolu, 67, a former Red Guard and a student leader, as well as some of his classmates, paid a visit to the Beijing No.8 High School on October 7, 2013, and apologized to their teachers for what they did during the Cultural Revolution, a political movement launched by the late Chairman Mao Zedong.

Shen Xiaoke and Hu Bin, two students of Beijing Foreign Studies University at that time, publicly apologized on November 4, 2010 in a Southern Weekend cover story headlined "After 44 years, the Red Guards finally begin to apologize publicly."

The daughter of a late general, Song Binbin, who led China's revolution, has made a public apology to her high school teachers for her deeds during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) amid a recent wave of reflections by the perpetrators of the decade-long movement.


The Cultural Revolution, initiated and led by Mao Zedong swept all across China from 1966 to 1976. Leaders, teachers and revered intellectuals were humiliated, accused of being counter-revolutionary, and beaten by gangs of young people calling themselves Red Guards for Chairman Mao. Some of the victims committed suicide, others died from ill treatment.

Chinese authorities long ago admitted in general terms that the Cultural Revolution was a disaster for China. However, there has not been much further self-examination, except rehabilitating names of the many officials and ordinary people who were unfairly harmed.

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