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"[My] deepest memory is 'horrible'": A Doctor's Memories from Peking University

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  • Interviewer: Hello! Thank you for accepting my interview. Would you please tell me when you were born?
  • Interviewer: You don’t need to say the exact date, just “1920’s,” “1930’s” is okay.
  • 1920's.
  • Interviewer: During the decade of the Cultural Revolution, in what area of China did you stay?
  • Beijing, Peking University
  • Interviewer: You must have lots of memories of that decade.
  • Interviewer: You might be able to speak for days and nights without talking about them all.
  • Interviewer: If we only give you ten minutes, namely, in the first ten minutes, what kind of memories do you most want to share with us?
  • What?
  • Interviewer: Just say whatever you want to say. Your memories of the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976.
  • You're saying the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution?
  • Interviewer: Yes. 1966-1976.
  • [My] deepest memory is “horrible.”
  • Interviewer: What do you mean?
  • Wherever you went there were people fighting, torturing people, beating people -- struggling against people.
  • It was pitiful. Once I was on the bus, I saw a big truck on the roadside,
  • with two people tied up, kneeling in the back of the truck.
  • I remember when the first general assembly of the Cultural Revolution
  • was held in the auditorium of Peking University Hospital,
  • they made a few old professors who they they thought were landlords, rich farmers, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, and rightists [the “five black categories”]
  • come up to the stage and kneel on the floor.
  • Those professors were all in their 70s, and one of them was the director of ophthalmology of Peking University Hospital.
  • There were also three companions, one was from the surgical department; I forget the other two.
  • The Red Guards took the whips to flog them. I didn’t dare sit in the front; I sat in the back.
  • Watching that, I wanted to cry, but I didn’t dare, didn’t dare cry.
  • After that, it was just a series of injuries from beatings, deaths from beatings. Many things like this happened in our hospital.
  • I had a classmate, a gynecologist. Her [brother], mother, and a nanny were tied up by the neighborhood Red Guards,
  • and were made to kneel on the ground to be beaten by them.
  • Her father was a senior engineer at Kailuan coal mine, but he had passed away.
  • After that, her family moved to Beijing; her mother, being an intellectual, did some work with the neighborhood committee.
  • For doing such works, there was a list of names.
  • All of the neighborhood Red Guards were middle school students.
  • They found this list, and thought it was her list of people to torture.
  • So they tied up her mother, brother, and nanny; [they were made to] kneel on the ground.
  • After she heard about it, she went home.
  • At first she didn’t understand anything, so she went to the Red Guards
    to reason with them.
  • But then she was pushed down and everyone, all four people, were beaten to death.
  • This was one of the very first cases of someone being beaten to death during
    the Cultural Revolution.
  • A friend of ours in Peking University was a returned student from the Soviet Union, exceptional in foreign languages.
  • But because his family background was that of landlord, he was locked in the building, and hanged himself.
  • There were numerous similar cases.
  • Interviewer: Peking University was a serious disaster area.
  • Yes. The day Nie Yuanzi posted the first "big-character poster," I had a baby.
  • Interviewer: You had a baby. So, you remember it clearly, right?
  • Interviewer: This is something you can’t forget because on the same day that Nie Yuanzi posted the first "big-character poster," you had a baby.
  • Yes, my husband had no time to come to the hospital to see me.
  • Interviewer: So from your point of view, that decade was really frightening.
  • Very frightening.
  • My husband's older sister taught junior high school.
  • In the blink of an eye she was pulled aside, shaved bald,
  • punished by being made to kneel in the yard, and was not allowed to go home.
  • Her house was searched and possessions were confiscated.
  • Her roommate wore [the Chinese-style dress] “qipao."
    All of her “qipao” were cut to pieces, shredded;
  • furniture was thrown everywhere, scattered on the floor.
  • Interviewer: You were in Beijing throughout the decade?
  • Yes. Later, my husband was imprisoned for eight months.
  • Interviewer: No visits were allowed, right?
  • I could visit, but he was not allowed to come home.
  • We just met in a reception room when I visited him. I took my sons to see him.
  • In the beginning, he was accused of being a "bourgeois reactionary academic authority."
  • The men who took his baggage from home were his colleagues.
  • Since their relationship was very good, the two of them secretly told me, your husband is fine.
  • Why was he arrested?
  • There was a spy from the Bureau of Investigation and Statistics who had been lying low since Liberation.
  • He was a colonel, then a physician at Peking Union Medical College Hospital.
  • He knew my husband’s older sister.
  • That spy was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment [after Liberation].
  • After the start of the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards made him write down the names of spies he knew.
  • He wrote the names of 10 people; my husband was one of them,
  • so they put my husband in prison as a lurking military intelligence spy
    for eight months.
  • After a long investigation, they found no evidence, so they went to the jail to re-interrogate that spy.
  • They showed him my husband’s picture, and asked, “Is that him?”
  • The spy said no, it doesn't look like him. He said he had misremembered. He must've gotten it wrong.
  • He said the agent he had been speaking of had been in hiding since before Liberation, since around 1948,
  • but my husband had joined the Communist Party in 1947. So, that spy was totally wrong.
  • They made him look at pictures of several people with the same last name as my husband, and in the end, he pointed out the actual spy, which wasn't my husband at all.
  • Interviewer: So, your husband wasted eight months in prison.
  • So, my husband has come to the conclusion that the special agents of the Kuomintang [Nationalists]
  • used the Cultural Revolution to torment the Communists.
  • Interviewer: They used this chance to mess with the Communists. [Laughs.]
  • Interviewer: Thank you. Your memory is quite clear; the interview lasted 12 minutes. Thank you.