Dying 'victim’ tries to clear her teacher’s name in Cultural Revolution rape case

By Xu Ming Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/20 19:58:39

‘Victim’ tries to clear her teacher’s name in Cultural Revolution rape case

Following the end of the Cultural Revolution, millions of persecuted cadres had their names cleared during the nationwide reversal efforts. But a large number of ordinary people were ignored and they have to rely on themselves to prove their innocence.

A man in a Red guard costume jumps in front of Cultural Revolution paintings. Photo: CFP

A man in a Red guard costume jumps in front of Cultural Revolution paintings. Photo: CFP

Wang Jiafang, a woman living in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, has been counting down the days she has left since cancer attacked her in 2010.

The 57-year-old says she only takes traditional Chinese medicine and barely has any strength, and openly acknowledges that she is at death's door.

More than death itself, she fears dying without resolving the injustices she was forced to be part of during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Forty one years ago, Wang was a primary school student in Leibo county, Sichuan Province. She was forced to testify that she was raped by her teacher Chen Jiaqian. Chen was forced to "confess" after days of physical and psychological torture.

Chen, a head-teacher with good prospects at that time, spent nine years in jail as a result. Despite appealing his sentence for years, he hasn't been able to clear his name. Wang has faced a lifetime of gossip and pity even though she left Leibo and moved far away.

In 2013, Chen got in touch with Wang, and the latter eventually summoned up the courage to try to reverse the verdict this January and submitted their case in July. Now the two are waiting to hear whether the local procuratorate has accepted the case.

"They said we would wait for two months or so. Now three months have passed. They may delay the case till after we die," said the 74-year-old man, who is also in ill health.


Forced confession

Chen remembers clearly how his fate suddenly changed one night in July 1975 when Wang paid him a visit. "If she had not come that night, I would have at least remained an ordinary teacher with a salary," Chen told the Global Times.

Wang, then 16, knocked on the door of Chen's office and dormitory around 9 pm (after finishing the day's farm work) to ask about her chances of getting into middle school. At that time, a student needed a school's recommendation to move forward with their education. 

Wang said she did not even sit down and the two had just talked for a few minutes when the head of the village committee rushed into Chen's room with three militiamen and tied up the pair. They were then handed over to the township government and interrogated.

Their interrogators demanded they "admit" that they had sexual relationship. As Chen recollected, he would be beaten whenever he refused. He and Wang requested several times that their accusers check her body for evidence of sexual activity, but these pleas were ignored. To save his life, he wrote a confession saying that the accusations were true, in the hope that he might not be punished too harshly.

Wang was told by her female interrogator that Chen had already confessed and that if she did not also admit to having sex, she would be paraded through the streets. Believing that she would never be let go unless she said what they wanted, Wang falsely confessed too.

In March the next year, Chen was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a public trial for "raping a young woman" and other crimes.

Chen's life was ruined. Before that night, he was the headmaster of a primary school and a key talent to be cultivated by the district-level education system, and the only potential Communist Party of China member in the village.

He spent six years in jail instead. His two daughters, who were very young when he was jailed, eventually dropped out of high school because they were too busy helping their mother survive to study. His daughters have lived in poverty their whole lives and his wife suffers from mental health problems.

"She cannot understand me even now. 'Why would they arrest you if you didn't do it,' she says," Chen revealed to the Global Times.

When she got married at 20, Wang brought her then husband to a hospital for mandatory medical check and the results showed she was still a virgin. "But no written document proving this was provided," Wang recalled.

Chen says he suspected he was set up because he had offended then Party secretary of the village committee Teng Xinfu. After 1971, as headmaster of the school, Chen requested several times that the classrooms be repaired but was rejected by Teng. Chen later reported Teng to the township education department and the two became enemies.

As Chen recalled, Teng publicly said he would "fix" Chen. He had also heard Teng asking anyone who saw a female student enter Chen's room to tell him.

Hard to reverse

In 1979, when the whole country was trying to right the wrongs of the Cultural Revolution, Chen appealed to the local court, and in 1981 his imprisonment was decreased to six years after it was decided that many of the accusations leveled against him were baseless. But the rape charge remained.

After getting out of prison in 1981, Chen tracked down Wang who had gotten married in a faraway place to escape the gossip which surrounded her following the case. Feeling guilty after learning of the inhuman torture Chen had suffered in jail, Wang dictated what really happened that night and signed it with her fingerprint.

But his hope of clearing his name was broken in 1983 when Wang again said he raped her after being threatened by Leibo court officers, who also said that Chen had forced Wang to lie about the rape and told Wang that she would go to jail if she didn't recant her testimony.

He was arrested again in 1983, as part of a nationwide movement to "strike hard on crimes," for "forging" evidence, and spent another three years in jail.

Chen never gave up though. Failing to find a lawyer, he taught himself about the law throughout the years. But again and again, his appeal was rejected by the authorities, who maintained that the punishment enforced at that time was reasonable given "sufficient testimony."

It was 30 years later when he next got in touch with Wang. But he did not ask her to help him, after hearing that she was suffering from cancer.

But burdened with guilt, Wang eventually made up her mind to help her teacher early this year, inspired by the case of Chen Man, a man who was convicted of murder in 1992 but eventually had his name cleared in 2016.

She found the woman who interrogated her in 1975 and asked her to admit what really happened. "Against that historical background, [I] forced Wang to admit that she had an unspeakable relationship with Chen without any evidence. There was no alternative," the woman wrote this June.

"I'm not afraid of getting jailed any more. It is the greatest shame of my life. I hope I can die honest and clean," said Wang. "Do you think it is possible?" she asked.

A historical phenomenon

Chen said he does not hate Wang. "She was left with no choice either," Chen said, "It is useless to hate her."

Chen expressed disgust over the period he calls "a time without law."

"There were so many wrong cases involving so many important figures at that time. I'm just too small to complain," he said.

As reported, during the Cultural Revolution, millions of "confessions" were extracted via torture without evidence. But this number only refers to the about 2 million cadres that were investigated during that period.

No statistics, even rough ones, about small cases like Chen's are available yet. But according to Chen, such cases of injustice were very common at that time.

Starting from 1978, the country began to right significant injustices that occurred during the Cultural Revolution and many important figures like former Chairman Liu Shaoqi were rehabilitated. According to statistics, from the end of Cultural Revolution to the 1980s, about 4.18 million injustices across the country were acknowledged.

But many cases, particularly those involving ordinary people, have never been corrected. It is not rare to see people ask online how to get their verdict from the Cultural Revolution reversed.

It is a tough path, as many similar cases have proven.

Fu Fushan, a teacher in Hainan Province, was accused of rape by three female students in 1973 as a part of a struggle between two political sects.

Fu has been petitioning all levels of government over the past 40 years, but he hasn't got the truth he wants, even though the involved students admitted their accusations were false in 2006.    

In response to an online post about false accusations during the Cultural Revolution, a lawyer named Fang Yang wrote that as so many years have passed, "the materials and files might have been lost or vanished, so you need to be prepared that this case will not be reversed."

As Chen understands, in addition to the long time span, the difficulty of his case lies in the fact that judicial organs will not admit that they were wrong, because they are unwilling to pay him compensation. "People who were involved in this case are dying one by one. It's getting more and more difficult," he said.

But Chen is resolved to persist. "I am not afraid of getting jailed any more, and I believe in China's law," said he, adding that he just worries he may not live to see his name cleared.

But a lawyer who is not willing to reveal his name told the Global Times bluntly that Chen should spend the time he has left on more important and meaningful things in life.

"They both admitted the rape at that time, which means there was sufficient evidence. The chance of the verdict being reversed is very little," the lawyer said.

Newspaper headline: Time running out for justice

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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