Cultural Revolution apology from marshal’s son

By Zhang Xiaobo Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-16 1:03:01

The son of Chen Yi, a late marshal who led China's revolution, has made a public apology to his high school teachers for attacking them during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) amid a recent wave of reflections by perpetrators of the decade-long movement.

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, and apologized to their teachers for what they did during the Cultural Revolution, a political movement launched by the late Chairman Mao Zedong.

During the campaign, some teachers were labeled as "supporters of capitalism" and attacked both verbally and physically by their students. The movement at Chen's school led to the suicide of two teachers and the disability of another.

At a meeting held by the alumni, Chen expressed his remorse and claimed that his behavior had violated the Constitution and infringed upon others' human rights.

Chen also noted that even though the movement ended 37 years ago, the negative impact of the political movement could still be seen now. By reflecting on the sins they committed, he hoped that the social moral level could be improved.

Chen has made efforts to encourage more of his classmates to stand up and apologize for their actions. He published an open letter of apology in mid-August.

The recent wave of reflections and public remorse came after Liu Boqin, a retired official in Jinan, Shandong Province, published his apology in the Yanhuang Chunqiu magazine in June for raiding the house of one of his classmates in 1966. Many perpetrators in the turbulent movement have followed suit, but Chen's apology drew the most attention due to his family background.

Chen's father Chen Yi was one of the 10 marshals after the founding of the People's Republic of China.  He also served as foreign minister and mayor of Shanghai.

"The public apology was not supposed to trigger such strong social interest. We just feel that we owe our teachers an official apology and in doing this, we feel right and relieved," Huang Jian, secretary-general with the alumni association of the Beijing No.8 High School, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that he hoped for more personal reflections.

"The government published files decades ago to reflect on the mistakes of the movement. But personal confessions are still rare," Zhao Shilin, a professor of the School of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Minzu University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that Chen has set a good example and the recent trend of more personal reflections showed the awakening of the nation's consciousness.

The Cultural Revolution has been defined by the authorities as a disastrous period of chaos for the Party, nation and people, which was wrongfully started by the Party's leaders and used by anti-revolutionary gangs.

According to a 2008 article published by the Study Times, a publication affiliated to the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the decade-long turbulence resulted in 2.3 million officials, or 19.2 percent of the total, being investigated, leading to the deaths of some top leaders, including Liu Shaoqi, then the nation's president, and Peng Dehuai, a heroic marshal. The movement also caused 500 billion yuan ($81.9 billion) in economic losses.

Opinions are still divided among the public over the movement, with some people glorifying it and others denouncing it.

The authorities have yet to make a detailed and thorough conclusion of the movement, with official comments on the period still rare.

However, during his last press conference last year, former premier Wen Jiabao warned that the lingering influence of the errors from the Cultural Revolution still exists and similar historical tragedies may happen again should the country fail to push forward political reform.

Zhao said the trend of more public apologies among ordinary people put pressure on the authorities to make a clearer reflection of the movement, which "will help to prevent such political disasters from happening again in the future."

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