A picture taken in June 1966 reflects Red Guards, along with high school and university students, waving copies of Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s small Red publication as they parade in Beijing’s streets.

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Reporting native BEIJING—For fifty percent a century, Cheng Zhangong has mourned his father’s passing yet didn’t desire to dwell on just how he really passed away — in ~ the hands of Cheng’s high school classmates.

To this day, Cheng tho remembers finding his father, a high school vice principal, slumped over a sandbox procedures away from his old office after being beaten with long sticks through his own students. “Almost overnight castle turned versus my father,” stated Cheng, 69, whose dried eyes belied pain. “I understand they were under the influence of the politics system.”

The purges that characterized the an excellent Proletarian cultural Revolution began 50 years ago, in august 1966. Youth mobs, buoyed by idolatry for Mao Tse-tung, threw themselves into a crazed project as Red Guards. In colleges and high colleges throughout the country, castle repudiated their teachers and principals as “capitalists” or “stinking intellectuals” and also pressed them into company as laborers.

On one oppressively hot day in the month that the purges began, Cheng’s father was made to move the college grounds for hours without being enabled a sip of water. Once he paused come rest, he take it a beating from the Red Guards. As soon as Cheng intervened, his classmates kicked him and also chased the away.


The following morning his father broke down into a coma ~ predawn clean duties and died. By the time the dark decade ended in 1976, an ext than 1.7 million rather would have perished.

“For many years, my family didn’t challenge talk about this,” said Cheng, who couldn’t bear to collection foot ~ above his high college campus, a couple of blocks from his home, allow alone to broach the topic of his father’s beating.

Not until a couple of years ago, once he chanced top top a website that said his father had actually committed suicide out that guilt. As the “Chinese Holocaust Memorial,” the website keeps a running list of victims of the purges in the academe.

Determined to collection the document straight, Cheng got to out to Wang Youqin, the Chicago-based Chinese scholastic who started the site.


Wang to be the daughter of 2 college instructors in Beijing throughout the social Revolution and became a “sent-down youth” — among the countless urban, educated adolescents who were exiled to far-flung areas to live and work v peasants throughout the social Revolution. In 1966, Wang, climate 13, and also her sisters were sent out to the border v Burma to clear wooded areas; her left palm still bears a scar indigenous a pickax.


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Wang Youqin in she Chicago home, looking v her collection of materials on the cultural Revolution, including the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece that chronicled the purges.
When she returned to Beijing 13 years later, in 1979, to enroll at Peking University, Wang learned that number of of her high school teachers, and also a couple of professors from she university, had actually died. She collection out come learn more about the situations of your deaths, every of which to be officially reputed a suicide.

She discovered that the classroom where she supplied to to visit lectures over the chirpings of passing sparrows had been awash v the blood the a Russian-language lecturer, that slit his wrist with a razor to finish the pains of persecution. By day, that was subjected to humiliating “struggle sessions.” by night, he was corralled v a dozen various other faculty members right into the classroom, where they slept on dust floors spanned with loosened straw. Only by tracking under the faculty member who had slept next to this instructor go Wang learn just how he had taken his life.

Among the very first to perish in the purges to be Wang’s high institution principal, Bian Zhongyun. She to be pummeled v baseball bats and also table legs and also scalded with boiling water. Even as she put unconscious on the steps outside a dormitory building, some students kicked her, accusing she of play dead. By the time she to be transported to the hospital, she body was currently in rigor mortis. Wang learned every this from Bian’s husband, who saved Bian’s blood-soaked clothes.

Over the years, Wang has expanded her inquiry to include several hundred an ext educators targeted during the cultural Revolution. In the late 1990s, while teaching Chinese in ~ Stanford University and also publishing her interviews with victims’ families, Wang said, she was stalked by previous Red Guards threaten to damage her. She didn’t relent, but relocated come Chicago to take it up a teaching job. In 2000, Wang introduced the website and listed about 800 dead for whom she has names and family testimony, or any kind of shred of info she had regulated to glean. Every week she’d obtain emails or letter from victims’ families — until the Chinese government blocked the site a year later. In 2004, she released a publication in Hong Kong detailing the deaths.

And end the last decade, her three-bedroom condo on the campus the the college of Chicago has morphed into a full-blown repository. Nicely labeled binder of interview notes were shelved over bound quantities of fraying pages of People’s day-to-day from the 1960s. Every summer, Wang travels ago to Beijing to teach Mandarin while proceeding to look for details that the deaths. Therefore far, she has actually conducted much more than 1,000 interviews with family members the the victims.

Her persistence has pierced the main silence implemented by the Chinese government. Together time goes on, the family members of those who passed away are an ext willing to open up.

Cheng, because that one, sent out Wang a six-page evil account detailing his father’s death down come his last breath. She previously had actually only the school’s official background to walk by.

“A variety of cases have arised with more details and clarity because much more family members that the victims have actually come forward,” said Wang. “While ns can’t adjust anything, what I have the right to do is to document the facts around the victims. Because for so lengthy they’ve been lacking from official history, the cultural Revolution has been sanitized into a political event and also rendered as victimless.”

Two year ago, one of Wang’s schoolmates and the daughter of among communist China’s starting generals, tune Binbin, apologized for her role in Bian’s beating death. But so far, she has proved to it is in the exception.

Even at the half-century mark, the central government has yet to give a publicly account the what happened. And also the just museum that commemorates the victims, established by retired neighborhood officials in a small southern Chinese city a three-hour journey from Hong Kong, has actually over the last couple of months to be cloaked through banners that Communist Party slogans — apparently on government orders, follow to media reports.

“Why did it become such a taboo even 50 year later?” Wang asked. “It were as though, if we never talked about it, then it never ever happened. Who is the Chinese federal government kidding?”

Roderick MacFarquhar, a Harvard chronicler who has actually written extensively about the revolution, said lacking any official account or publicly acknowledgement of your loss, the victims’ family members can find some solace only in Wang’s efforts.

“This is a way to memorialize the victims,” stated MacFarquhar. “The family members want justice, and also some type of recognition of the tragedy.”

Even despite the social Revolution raged all over, the region of Guangxi, top top the country’s southerly border, observed the heaviest fatality tolls — 86,000 to 150,000 by part estimate — and also is distinctive in having internal official accounts about what transpired there.

A chronicler at the library that Cal State Los Angeles, song Yongyi, freshly published those accounts digital — every 7 million characters detailing county-by-county killings. Due to the fact that the 1990s, he has been structure a database top top the cultural Revolution by compiling any type of material he could find. In 1999, he was detained for five months in China on allegations of thefts state secrets. Yet he stays undaunted.

“What I want to perform is to reclaim to the human being in the People’s Republic the right to know,” the said.

Revealed in his recently published files is a hilltop burial ground, a rare resting location for the cultural Revolution dead the still exists. Much more than a dozen unmarked graves lie scattered throughout this partially cleared outcrop, i beg your pardon at the moment was a livestock farm supplying a nearby high school.

Shielded by eucalyptus trees and also waist-deep cogon grass, each grave is a dune-shaped heap of crushed rocks and caked mud around 3 feet tall. Almost all are without a tombstone or any kind of marker, and also appear unattended. Locals claimed rice paddies have fallen fallow to make method for roads. The clanging the a lone earthmover echoed in the air.

There is little doubt that these critical physical markers of the cultural Revolution dead will shortly be flattened — and also forgotten.

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