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A Story of Persecution During China’s Cultural Revolution

A Story of Persecution During China’s Cultural Revolution

Former actress learns surprising fact that the Chinese Communist regime murdered her innocent uncle

On this narrative story, Kechun Li, a former actress from China, shares a story about her uncle who suffered and died beneath the Communist regime in the course of the Cultural Revolution. Ms. Li was inspired to share her uncle’s story because she believes the world ought to know the reality concerning the evils of communism and the crimes dedicated by the Chinese language Communist regime on tens of millions of harmless individuals in China. Her writing has been edited for clarity. 

Photograph of Kechun Li, 2018. (Offered by Kechun Li)

During my trip to China in 2013, I discovered some surprising truths about my uncle. He passed away 4 many years ago through the Cultural Revolution. Sadly, I never had the prospect to satisfy this exceptional man and I didn’t know much about him all through my childhood. But over the past three weeks of my trip, I met my uncle’s daughter who informed me more about her father. Listening to the stories of my uncle’s tragic life has been an awesome and heart-wrenching experience. I’m saddened by how he suffered and died as a political prisoner—it was an injustice to him and to his family. The ugly fact is that my uncle was focused by the communist regime as a result of he was born into a privileged household, he was well-educated, and had a promising future—his was a life reduce brief.

Editor’s word: The Cultural Revolution, spearheaded by Chinese language Communist Get together leader Mao Zedong, was a political campaign to destroy “counter-revolutionary” parts of society, including conventional Chinese tradition, faith, and intellectuals that occurred from 1966 to 1976.

His identify was Zhang Deji. My uncle handed away in a labor camp the place he was detained after he served 20 years in prison. All that was left of him—a shirt and a blanket—have been sent to his older sister in Chengdu Metropolis in southwestern China, as an alternative of his ex-wife and daughter in Beijing. My aunt had a nervous breakdown when she acquired the package deal from the labor camp. With out opening the package deal, she held it towards her chest and huddled in a dark nook at house, trembling and repeating to herself and her youngsters: “Your uncle is in it…your uncle is in it.” This was not the first time that my aunt misplaced a beloved one. She went by means of a traumatic expertise after she misplaced her husband—who was arrested and sentenced to labor camp in 1957. Nobody within the family ever saw or heard from him once more. He was accused of being a counter-revolutionary and died in the camp in 1962.

I had an opportunity to satisfy my uncle’s daughter—my cousin—while I was visiting Beijing at a Hilton lodge. Kaiyu and I chatted for 4 hours in the lodge’s eating hall and she or he cried for most of the time. She was solely a toddler when her father was arrested and sentenced to prison. Kaiyu remembered visiting her father in jail—it was the one place where she might spend time with him. Her mother would take her there they usually have been solely allowed to see him for a very brief time every week, 15 minutes in complete.

Kaiyu confirmed me an previous black-and-white photograph of my uncle when he was nonetheless a free man. He appeared wholesome and handsome. He was skinny and tall, had massive clear eyes and full lips, a broad forehead that is thought-about in Chinese physiognomy an indication of intelligence, and enormous ears which might be a sign of being blessed with luck. He was dressed in plain Chinese clothes. After the Chinese language Communist Get together (CCP) took over China in 1949, individuals were not allowed to put on Western-style suits because they have been criticized as being Western sympathizers and harassed by those who claimed they have been the actual revolutionaries. Earlier than the Communist takeover, Western style represented success, progress, and class.

An undated photograph of Zhang Deji, the writer’s uncle. (Offered by Kechun Li)

My uncle and my mother went to high school collectively at the University of West China in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The varsity was founded in 1910 by 5 Christian organizations after the Boxer Riot, and one of a handful of Catholic universities in China. Courses at college have been taught in English—principally by American professors and some Chinese scholars who have been educated in america. My uncle was charming, wealthy, and common among the many women in class. He inherited his fortune from his share of my grandfather’s estate. He was the third-eldest son of 12 boys within the family.

My uncle was only 15 years-old when his father handed away in 1938. My grandfather was a lieutenant basic and a warlord in Sichuan. Before he passed away at the age of 46 from a heart assault, he had divided his estate between all his little kids—uncommon, as a result of traditionally, family belongings have been often passed on to sons only. A portion of my uncle’s inheritance was agricultural land, however I don’t understand how much land he inherited. My grandfather and his military have been recruited to hitch forces with the Kuomintang to struggle towards the Communist Get together’s Pink Army in 1933 (during China’s civil warfare), and later the Japanese within the Sino-Japanese Conflict.

My uncle graduated from the university in 1948. In 1950, he continued his schooling in Beijing and majored in economics. He spoke fluent English. After commencement, he labored for the Ministry of Commerce within the early 1950’s. He had a promising future.

Hassle with the authorities began when my uncle was accused of a criminal offense he did not commit. His spouse advised me the story during one of our telephone calls. Thankfully, I was capable of speak with my aunt a number of occasions before she handed away in 2015. My husband and I returned to China for Chinese language New Yr in 2015 and attempted to satisfy my aunt but she had already handed away one week earlier than our journey. My aunt stated my uncle was accused of causing the demise of one of the peasants who leased land from my uncle, and that this incident occurred when my grandfather was nonetheless alive. One summer time, my grandfather’s right-hand man (hired by my grandfather to manage his property and land) went to the countryside to collect a proportion of harvested crops from a peasant—an previous man—who was presupposed to pay back a loan. My uncle, who was 13 years-old on the time, was invited to return alongside. The previous man died later of unknown causes.

In 1954, 18 years after the previous man died, my uncle was accused of causing his demise although there was no evidence. There was no trial, but my uncle was convicted and accused of being an “evil landlord” by causing the previous man’s dying. He was sentenced to life in jail. The accuser was the previous man’s grandson who had joined the Individuals’s Liberation Military (PLA, China’s army) and turned my uncle over to the marshall courtroom. Communist China does not have true courts of regulation.

Shortly after the Individuals’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded (after the CCP gained the civil conflict), the CCP started confiscating properties and executing individuals who have been landlords and Kuomintang army officers. The motion was referred to as “clean up the bandits and counter-strike on landlords.” The marshall courtroom acted as enforcers and handled all of the “criminal” instances. All high-ranking Kuomintang officers—above the rank of captain—have been executed. Those under the rank of captain—reminiscent of lieutenants, sergeants, and customary troopers—ended up in Chinese language prisons, sentenced to pressured labor camps, or placed beneath home arrest. Those that escaped China have been capable of keep away from torture, humiliation, persecution, and demise. My mother once informed me there were executions every night time in Chengdu, the place I used to be born. And one night time, 300 hundred individuals have been executed. Anyone who owned land, property, or a business have been persecuted and their belongings confiscated. Individuals and their relations could possibly be labeled as “class enemies” as properly. In the early 1950s, my father’s aspect of the family immediately lost every part because my grandfather’s wealth and popularity was so outstanding. My mom’s aspect of the family also misplaced all their belongings at the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

My uncle had managed to survive 20 years in jail. He couldn’t declare his innocence whereas he was in prison or in the labor camp, but needed to “confess” his “sins” to display a superb angle and present remorse that it was a “vice” to inherit land and belongings from his father. The Chinese language regulation for prosecution states: “Leniency is granted for those who confess. Severity is applied to those who resist.” He had lengthy denied that he was falsely convicted for causing the dying of the previous peasant, so his sentence was lowered to 20 years. Beneath Chinese regulation, prisoners have been pressured to work at labor camps after their imprisonment to “reform” their ideas and conduct to evolve with orders from the brand new leaders and to be accepted by the revolutionary society.

Kaiyu never saw her father again after he was transferred from Beijing to another prison in Sichuan in 1966. She was only 14 years-old. She could not go to him at the new location because she wanted a particular permit to journey throughout the nation. At the moment, individuals needed to get permission from authorities to journey within China. Kaiyu was bullied by youngsters in class and in the neighborhood. For more than 20 years, younger individuals have been encouraged to chop off relationships with relations who have been thought-about “class enemies,” so it was troublesome for Kaiyu to maintain in touch together with her father. I might have requested extra questions, but once I checked out my cousin’s sad face, I choked up and couldn’t deliver myself to talk.

Whereas within the labor camp, my uncle developed lung disease. He may need survived if he had acquired correct medical care. The circumstances are unimaginable in Chinese language labor camps: An intolerable bodily and psychological environment, poor vitamin, and contaminated dwelling circumstances. Despite being handled inhumanely, my uncle labored exhausting within the labor camp. He was recognized for his work in breeding wholesome rabbits. As a reward for his arduous work, the labor camp was going to launch my uncle. Nevertheless, the disease took his life. My uncle was referred to as a very good man; one of my uncle’s former inmates advised this to my uncle’s older sister and her family in Chengdu. When my uncle handed away in 1975, my cousin Kaiyu needed to bear ‘re-education’ within the countryside in Internal Mongolia.

My uncle by no means misplaced hope while he was still alive. He believed that he would someday be reunited together with his solely daughter. He needed to be a faithful father and to cross on conventional values that had been eradicated beneath the Communist regime to his daughter. Nevertheless, he knew that he wouldn’t have a home to return to in Beijing if he have been released from prison. It was a phenomenal house, a sprawling Chinese language-style mansion with 19 rooms and a courtyard, situated in probably the most prestigious area near the Forbidden City, the home of imperial relations and excessive authorities officials in the course of the Qing Dynasty. My uncle additionally understood that his spouse needed to file for divorce because their state of affairs brought humiliation and strain from society—from her employer, colleagues, neighbors, and the authorities.

Kaiyu discovered on a map the city where her father was sentenced to exhausting labor in Sichuan. It was situated on a mountain ridge on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan Province. My cousin doesn’t know the place her father was buried. My different cousins made a visit to an unmarked graveyard years later the place my uncle was supposedly buried, but they couldn’t determine his grave website. Kaiyu has never tried to seek out her father’s grave. She stated revisiting the previous would have been too painful for her and she or he would fairly transfer on together with her life. And now she has a son to look after.

My uncle’s dying has remained hidden and with out closure. Nobody has fought for his rights and towards his unjust persecution. I couldn’t put the items of the puzzle collectively for a very long time although I had heard of this uncle whom I had by no means met. This is probably the most devastating undeniable fact that I’ve ever confronted since I misplaced my mother and father. I went by means of a particularly painful grieving course of. My mother and father had barely survived the persecution in the course of the Cultural Revolution, but my uncle didn’t make it. My maternal grandfather died inside a month from a stroke after he was crushed by the Pink Guards, and his relations have been additionally crushed. He committed no crime however only spoke towards the Communists, saying that folks had been better off underneath the Kuomintang however they starved beneath the Communists. This occurred throughout and after the Nice Leap Forward within the early 1960s when China went via a famine. My grandfather was sentenced to deal with arrest for the remaining of his life. In 1979, he was given an official pardon—13 years after his dying.

Former Actress Kechun Li in an undated photograph. (Offered by Kechun Li)

I know that there are extra kin of mine who died both in labor camps, after being tortured, or of starvation. During the Cultural Revolution, my father’s eldest sister was crushed and forced to kneel down on broken sharp glass in public, and half the hair on her head was shaved off to mark her as a counter-revolutionary. Her son, my first cousin and a university professor, was interrogated and tortured to demise. My mother was a goal and humiliated in entrance of many people because she attended the University of West China, a faculty founded by Christians from the West. Chinese language individuals had been informed for a very long time that People have been the “number one” enemies of China. All my relations who lived throughout my grandparents’ and fogeys’ generations could not escape political persecution from the 1950s via the Cultural Revolution. Who is aware of how many tens of millions of individuals died beneath Communist persecution throughout that time?

These have been crimes towards humanity that no one has been held accountable for. Most Communist revolutionaries are lifeless now. Nevertheless, their descendants have reaped most of the benefits and privileges and have develop into one of the wealthiest individuals on the earth. All that was left of my uncle’s life was a shirt and a blanket. His dying was unjust. But he had been beloved and missed dearly. He isn’t forgotten.

My uncle’s demise won’t ever be justified. His life was minimize brief. He by no means gave up hope for his personal freedom and to be reunited together with his daughter. The 21 years of his life in prison and in labor camp took all the things away from him and his household, together with his human rights. His life was totally destroyed. I nonetheless marvel why my mother and father never advised my brother and I about my uncle. Maybe they tried to guard their harmless youngsters from the surprising truths concerning the evils of communism and what it did to my uncle as a political prisoner.

My uncle’s soul has not rested in peace and I need to ask,”Why did this injustice happen to him?” My coronary heart cries out for justice, for an official pardon for my uncle—because my aunt and cousin have been unable to get well from the losses, unable to stay the promising life that they deserved. My uncle was harmless and he was accused of a criminal offense he didn’t commit. His suffering and demise reflected the political system and regime that purposely targeted harmless people who represented capitalism and freedom—they have been despised by the Communist revolutionary society. There have been people who have been buried alive with emperors in the course of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties when China was a warrior state (1555-256 BC). Similarly, my uncle and the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have been sacrificed to worship the founder of the Individuals’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong. Sadly, my uncle’s tragic life and demise shouldn’t be unique. History repeats itself.

I decided to put in writing down my uncle’s story as a result of the world ought to know the Chinese language Communist regime has dedicated crimes towards humanity and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent individuals in China. My uncle was one of the them. I would like others to study the truth. The financial success of trendy China is built on the bloodshed of tens of millions of innocent Chinese individuals like my uncle—that is the worth of communism.

Kechun Li was born on November 28, 1958 in China. She is an actress, recognized for showing in Dam Road (2005), The Last Aristocrats (1989), Zhao Qian Sun Li (1982) and Duo cai de chen guang (1984). At present, she resides in California, United States.