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"In reality, during the Cultural Revolution, there were a quite few people who resisted."

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  • Interviewer: Hello! Thank you for accepting my interview.
  • Sure! Thank you for interviewing me.
  • Interviewer: First, could you please tell me the decade of your birth, such as "'30s," "'40s," "'50s," or "'60s"?
  • Me? I'll tell you exactly. I was born in '47.
  • Interviewer: Oh, 1947. Could you tell us where you lived in China for the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976?
  • I was in Shanghai. For the whole [period], I was in Shanghai.
  • Interviewer: You were always in Shanghai.
  • Right, except for a period in the Shanghai suburbs.
  • Interviewer: You were born in 1947. Since you've experienced a lot of things, you certainly must have many memories.
  • Interviewer: If I only give you about 10 minutes, what are the clearest memories or the memories or impressions you'd most like to share with us? What would you like to say?
  • May I start now?
  • Interviewer: Yes, please go ahead.
  • Should I talk about my family background, identity, and profession?
  • Interviewer: You can, if you like. You could tell me your family background, roughly speaking.
  • My family was a workers' family that had problems.
  • Interviewer: A workers' family that had problems?
  • Right, but I don't need to go into detail. I was born in 1947; in 1966 I had just graduated from high school.
  • I was in the class of '66. The Cultural Revolution started in 1966.
  • I had no work assignment, so I stayed at home until 1968. In 1968, I went to a farm. It was in the Shanghai suburbs, in Chongming.
  • [I was in] Chongming up until 1974, and then I came back [to the city]. After I came back, I worked in a factory for three years.
  • In 1977 [I took] the university entrance examination, and went to school. That's a summary of my experience.
  • My experience wasn't the typical regular person's experience. It was rather unusual. How should I put it?
  • [My experience] was somewhat unique. I think I'll speak from a rather broad topic.
  • As far as the Cultural Revolution goes, it started in '66. Today, how do most researchers and scholars from outside China view the Cultural Revolution?
  • Generally speaking, the average person's impression of the Cultural Revolution involves thousands of people holding up
    Quotations from Chairman Mao.
  • Another [impression] is that the Cultural Revolution was a disaster; many people were struggled against and imprisoned, and experienced terrible hardships.
  • Entire families were exterminated. That's how things were.
  • My point of view is, that opinion is right, but there's another side to it. It seems as if China's ordinary people were cowardly, and there was no resistance.
  • There was no deep thinking; they only knew how to wave [Mao's] "little red book." If the authorities told you to do something, you did it.
  • It was insane; people could be killed with no will to resist. At least, many people have this impression.
  • But what I'd like to say is that the actual situation wasn't like that, or at least wasn't exactly like that.
  • It's like looking at a great ocean: the surface of the ocean is calm; sometimes there are waves.
  • But how about the depths of the ocean? There's life there, but you're unable to see it.
  • The Cultural Revolution was like that. In reality, [during] the Cultural Revolution, there were quite a few people who resisted.
  • The entire situation at that time was a complete mess. It could not have gotten any more absurd.
  • I'll speak about myself. In 1966, I had just graduated from high school. To use today's way of speaking, I was a student of the sciences; I really liked science.
  • I liked humanities, too, of course; I read books, but primarily [I liked] science.
  • In the Cultural Revolution, loyalty to Chairman Mao was the main thing.
  • This was true in the entire Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976. This theoretical structure in itself was incredibly absurd.
  • At the time, how did I start down this road [of pondering the Cultural Revolution]? Actually, it was simple.
  • In the world of physics, everyone knows Marie Curie; many people use her as an model and admire her; she was quite noble.
  • Since Marie Curie is so great and worthy, you ought to use her as an example, and of course, many people do.
  • At the time, my thinking was this: Mao Zedong was mighty; he had established New China.
  • Students in the graduating class of 1966 were 18, 19 years old.
  • As we had studied the greatness of Marie Curie, so should we study the greatness of Mao Zedong, right?
  • What was so great about Mao Zedong? In his youth, he'd had the courage to critique the nation; he had coined many famous phrases.
  • So, we needed to study him. At the time, I spent two years in the library reading.
  • I read what Mao Zedong was doing at the time, read Lu Xun's books, and saw what their criticisms of society were.
  • I read a lot of books at that time. When he was young, Mao Zedong went to survey many areas. He established Hunan Self-Study University.
  • It was simple: since Mao Zedong had acted in this way, so should we.
  • We should also write with passion, and critique our nation. Go inspect society, set up schools, etc.
  • But why did we have to be loyal to him? Wasn't it like this?
  • Interviewer: So, this is what you were thinking at the time, right?
  • Right, this was the first step in my reflection. At that time, I wrote a somewhat long essay called "Glory's Exemplar."
  • Who was "Glory's Exemplar"? It was Mao Zedong.
  • But my [essay] "Glory's Exemplar" was different from how everyone else sang the praises of Mao Zedong.
  • I wrote about what he had done in his youth, how he had gone to many different places, how he had set up the Self-Study University, and so on.
  • [I wrote that] it was different when compared to the situation [at the time]. [At the time] we only knew to memorize his quotations -- was that stupid, or what? No one thought too deeply!
  • This essay I wrote was quite long, probably at least twenty or thirty thousand characters. After I'd written it, I traced it onto stencil paper.
  • Interviewer: Did you carve it onto a steel plate [for printing] yourself?
  • Yes. I was preparing to distribute it. However, I was still a bit afraid; I didn't dare, since it didn't fit the mainstream [point of view].
  • Under these circumstances, I kept setting it aside. I held onto the stencil paper until the time I went abroad, and then I burned it.
  • Interviewer: Do you still have the original draft?
  • I don't have it at hand, but it's still out there in the world.
  • Interviewer: You ought to give it to a library to preserve.
  • It's still out there, but it's not in my possession.
  • This must have been in 1967; I completed the tracing in September 1967.
  • Then, I wrote down some of my impressions; they were just casually written.
  • What did the first essay say? A man's wife had been crushed to death by a car, and he wrote an essay about it.
  • He wrote, "No matter how big a single person's problem is, it's a minor issue; no matter how small the nation's problem is, it's a major issue."
  • I was deeply disgusted by this statement. My first essay was inspired by this [matter].
  • I wrote that this wasn't a matter of big issues and small issues, that things must be done according to law, and that the people involved must take responsibility.
  • It was this sort of issue. Otherwise, it would be chaos.
  • His wife's death was a personal matter...I wasn't encouraging [people] to rebel; these were two separate issues.
  • My first essay started from this, but I wrote quite a bit more after that, focusing on the Cultural Revolution.
  • During the Cultural Revolution, [there were these kinds of slogans]: "Whoever opposes Mao Zedong, smash that dog's head in!" "Whoever opposes Mao Zedong Thought, smash that dog's head in!"
  • I said that such slogans were wrong. Doesn't China have left, center, and right?
  • Was there nothing in [people's] heads that opposed Mao Zedong Thought? If [heads] were smashed, what kind of nation would we turn into?
  • Never mind everything else, China had so many religious figures -- Buddhist monks, Daoist priests, Buddhists -- so many religious people.
  • Should these "dogs" have their heads smashes as well? Religious thought and Mao Zedong Thought were incompatible.
  • Should all these heads be smashed? It was ridiculous.
  • Interviewer: Did you write articles, or rather talk about these ideas with other people?
  • I wrote articles.
  • Interviewer: Did you get into trouble?
  • No, not a bit of trouble. I never gave them to others to read.
  • Interviewer: You wrote them for yourself, and kept them.
  • That's right. It was step by step, like a child growing up step by step. I experienced it personally, that a person's thinking develops step by step.
  • Later, I wrote "Discussing Revolution," which was divided into five parts, I think.
  • The first part [concerned how], during the Cultural Revolution, many people were executed or imprisoned.
  • One accusation was [that a person was] "dissatisfied with reality." The first part of my "Discussing Revolution" expressed that this was not a crime.
  • Why? Society must develop, so we must be dissatisfied with society. If we have to be satisfied with society, then what is there to develop?
  • The second part was directed at "Old Mao." "Old Mao" had a famous judgment: "Those who expose are not necessarily important; those who praise are not necessarily insignificant."
  • He said this during the 1957 Anti-Rightist campaign.
  • In "Discussing Revolution," I said -- [of course] it was still a nascent, tentative, transitional viewpoint -- I just said it was incorrect.
  • If we want to have revolution, if we want to move society forward, the dark side must be exposed.
  • [In] the third [part]...during the Cultural Revolution, there was a rather important slogan, "fight selfishness, repudiate revisionism."
  • I said this was incorrect. People needed to transform themselves within society.
  • How could there be anyone who locked himself at home, managed to struggle with and get rid of all the selfish things in his mind, and then transformed society? Could this be done?
  • There was not a single person whose thinking could be completely proletariat.
  • In actuality, people's thinking was contradictory, with right and wrong, proletariat and bourgeoisie -- anyway, it was contradictory.
  • You'd be old or [dead] before you managed to get rid of it. So I said this [slogan] was wrong.
  • I also wrote that people must "establish themselves as authorities," as the saying goes--one must make a name for oneself.
  • During the Cultural Revolution, there was a lot of confused criticism of this idea. I said it was simple; people must do great things.
  • If a person had the ability to do something big, then that person must do it.
  • "Making a name for oneself" must not become a taboo.
  • What good did it do humanity for someone to be just a "screw"?
  • Compared to a big machine, which one [had a greater contribution]?
  • After writing five pieces, I started critiquing editorials from
    People's Daily.
  • In about June or July of 1966, there was a piece in
    People's Daily
    called "All 700 Million People Are Critics," meaning that everyone must perform "great criticism."
  • I myself targeted this editorial for criticism. I said that in society, there were people on the left and right, and in the middle.
  • There was no way 700 million people should be made active in criticism.
  • [People's] minds had opposing thoughts in them.
  • The editorial said we all must wield Mao Zedong Thought as a weapon [in criticizing], but how would that be possible?
  • People had anti-Mao Zedong Thought ideas in their minds.
  • Wielding Mao Zedong Thought [to perform criticism] was nonsense, right? I [wrote] really passionately.
  • Interviewer: Really passionately. So everything you wrote was just for yourself, and you never distributed it?
  • Just keep listening.
  • Then, there was a series of articles, criticizing an editorial from June 4th whose title was "Destroy the Last Semblance of Bourgeoisie Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity."
  • Interviewer: "Destroy the Last Semblance of Bourgeoisie Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity"?
  • Yes. So, I criticized this article. I'll give you a little background.
  • This editorial [was published] on June 4th, in accordance with [Mao Zedong's] May 16 Circular; many of the views expressed in it came from the May 16 Circular.
  • For example, the May 16 Circular said that [Peng Zhen's principle of] "everyone is equal before the truth" was incorrect.
  • It said this was a bourgeoisie [idea]. I focused on this for criticism. I said, everyone must be equal before the truth.
  • I said, if you want to advance a proletariat revolution, want to ferret out the bourgeoisie, you can't say for yourself if you're bourgeoisie or proletariat.
  • Anyone could say anything. We need equality, need facts and reason. Only then could you really identify people.
  • If there was no equality, I could say you were anything I wanted to say you were. What kind of way of doing things was this?
  • Also, I focused on freedom. [That editorial] discussed "freedom, equality, and fraternity."
  • I said [we] must have equality as well as freedom.
  • Equality and freedom touch on the system of society, which should be standardized.
  • Fraternity is different. That people should have fraternity and brotherly love was a proposition, so I didn't discuss this.
  • What I focused on was that society should have equality and freedom.
  • From September 1967 onward -- this was after I wrote "Glory's Exemplar" -- I was writing this essay, up until August 1968, when I was assigned to go to the farm.
  • In ten months, I had written 200,000 characters. At the time, I really wanted to publish what I had written, but I knew I could not.
  • In 1968, I went to the farm; in 1969, I began arranging my old manuscripts.
  • When I first started writing, I [was writing on] miscellaneous scraps of paper, but then I arranged them into nine notebooks.
  • Interviewer: Did you copy them fresh, or paste them in?
  • I revised and arranged them, copied --
  • Interviewer: You copied them out?
  • Right. I transcribed and revised at the same time. When I was transcribing, of course I was revising, too.
  • From 1969 to 1971, all I was doing was revising and transcribing.
  • Then, in 1971, the Lin Biao Incident happened.
  • Interviewer: 9/13.
  • Right, 9/13. All that time, I'd been thinking of how to distribute [what I'd written]. If I didn't get it out, I'd be a fool.
  • What I'd written was a beheaded thing. I'd written it, but not put it out there; it was hidden, covered up, beheaded...Of course, I never found a channel [for publication].
  • Actually, the Lin Biao Incident in 1971 really touched me greatly. I felt that China was already ridiculous in the extreme.
  • [A country's] second-in-command, who always had good things to say, [such as] "Every word [Mao Zedong speaks] is truth," "One sentence [from Mao] is worth ten thousand sentences," etc.
  • In the end, it turned into something like this! What was [our] country doing?
  • I could say, this period was the second stage in my writing, writing things to criticize society.
  • From 1967 to 1968, in those ten months, I wrote 200,000 words. In 1971 I wrote about 100,000 words.
  • At the time, the essays I wrote were "Down with Reactionary Class Struggle," "Thoughts on the Death of Lin Biao," and "More Thoughts on the Death of Lin Biao," and "Even More Thoughts About the Death of Lin Biao."
  • Everyone else was [involved in] the Criticize Lin [Biao] and Criticize Confucius campaign.
  • Actually, I was totally disgusted with Lin Biao. [He] was such a disgrace.
  • I didn't write "big-character posters" criticizing Lin and Confucius, but I wrote something myself.
  • Primarily, I was criticizing society. Why was this society able to bring about this result?
  • In reality, it was a totalitarian system. Regular people didn't have room to speak.
  • In reality, at the time many people opposed Lin Biao, but they were killed or taken into custody--and then this situation happened!
  • One thing was that the Lin Biao incident really got me worked up, and I decided I needed to stand up.
  • On May 12, 1972 -- it's now 45 years ago -- I put up a "big-character poster" in Shanghai.
  • Interviewer: Where did you post it? In a university, or outside?
  • It was in Shanghai city center. You've certainly been to Shanghai.
  • Interviewer: I've been there, but during the Cultural Revolution I was pretty small; at that time, I hadn't been there.
  • Shanghai People's Square -- you've heard of it, right?
  • Interviewer: Yes, I have. I'd heard of it at the time, but during the Cultural Revolution, I was only in the third grade.
  • People's Square is the center of Shanghai. My "big-character poster" was hung up in People's Square.
  • Interviewer: Whoa! That must've been terrible, right?
  • Oh, no, it wasn't. The content of this "big-character poster" was "Does truth have a class element?" That was the topic.
  • Where did this proposition that truth has a class element come from? It was from the May 16 Circular.
  • If you read [the May 16 Circular], then you'll know. At the time, I didn't know the May 16 Circular.
  • I just knew the editorial that had appeared in People's Daily on June 4th--“Destroy the Last Semblance of Bourgeoisie Freedom, Liberty, and Fraternity"--which had this claim in it.
  • I just said that truth did not have a class element.
  • Does the Sun revolve around the Earth, or is it the other way around -- and does the Sun have a class [element]?
  • Altogether, there were 22 pages in this "big-character poster."
  • Interviewer: Did you copy them yourself?
  • Of course! No one else took part. The things I wrote, I gave to a few extremely dependable, trustworthy friends to look at.
  • Interviewer: Did anyone discourage you?
  • My friends all discouraged me; none of them encouraged me. However, these were friends I definitely trusted; they would never have betrayed me.
  • I wanted to guarantee [that they wouldn't betray me]. Why did I give these things to them to read? I wanted to receive their support.
  • What support? I wanted them to hold on to my manuscripts for me.
  • This way, if the authorities took me in, if I died, my writings would still be there.
  • If I didn't die, these things would still belong to me. My [manuscripts] were stored at my friends' houses.
  • Interviewer: Did your own family know?
  • They didn't know a thing. Why didn't they know?
  • Interviewer: To protect your family?
  • One [reason] was to protect them, and another was that I have younger brothers and a younger sister, and I'd never spoken about [these issues] with them.
  • It was because if you were going to do this kind of thing, you had to have a definite foundation for your thought.
  • Interviewer: A common language.
  • Right. You had to have a common way of thinking. I talked to my friend [about this].
  • How can I put this? I had gone through a period of observation and reflection.
  • [My friends] all had their own foundation for their thinking, but my younger brothers and my little sister didn't have this.
  • I couldn't just teach them from the beginning; their understanding of society wouldn't allow them [to understand me].
  • So, under these circumstances, not letting them know [what I was doing] was a way of protecting them.
  • Interviewer: That's understandable.
  • At the time, I was still on the farm. In 1971, some of those on the farm were sent back.
  • Interviewer: Back to the city, right?
  • Right. The first group to return to the city [worked as] middle school teachers.
  • The requirements for middle school teachers were that they were those with good family backgrounds, so of course I was excluded.
  • At the end of 1971 it was Chongming Farm, or rather it was China farm system's first group [of Educated Youth] to be sent back.
  • You know the difference between the farm and the factory was that [people on] the farm desperately wanted to go back to the city.
  • Interviewer: Right.
  • I should mention, at the time I had the qualifications [to return to the city].
  • One thing was that in Shanghai during the entirety of the Cultural Revolution, policies were adhered to rather well.
  • [Shanghai] did not experience widespread violent struggle on the scale that other places did.
  • What beneficial qualifications did I have, then? My relationships within our production team were rather good.
  • Interviewer: What was [good] within the production team?
  • Relationships. Usually I wasn't lazy in my work.
  • What's more important is that my two younger brothers had both joined a production team. My younger sister had not yet been assigned [to a job].
  • In Shanghai at that time, these issues were most important when determining whether or not someone would be sent back to the city.
  • And it wasn't just for promotions; work assignments were also like this.
  • For example, if an older sister stayed in Shanghai, her younger brother would be sent to a rural community.
  • Or, if a younger brother was sent to a rural community, his older sister would be assigned to stay in Shanghai.
  • On this point, Shanghai adhered [to regulations] quite well.
  • My two younger brothers had joined production teams, my younger sister had not yet been assigned; our family was all farm[ers], no work[ers].
  • Under these circumstances, it was quite likely I'd be sent back [to the city] at the end of the year.
  • However, in 1971, the Lin Biao Incident happened, and I decided to put up "big-character posters." I had already decided I'd do this, definitely.
  • After deciding this, I could consider other matters – did I want to be sent back [to the city] after all?
  • Interviewer: You were thinking of the consequences?
  • That was one thing. Another thing was that I was thinking what would most benefit my putting up of "big-character posters."
  • Interviewer: So, you didn't feel being sent back to the city was as important as putting up "big-character posters"?
  • Interviewer: Putting up posters was most important, is that it?
  • Putting up posters was most important. However, [I considered] what would be most beneficial to this activity.
  • I had to think about whether or not being sent back [to the city] would contribute to this.
  • Being sent back would mean returning to the city, while not being sent back would mean [staying] in Chongming.
  • Putting up "big-character posters" would definitely lead to trouble, but would the trouble from the authorities be greater in Shanghai, or in Chongming?
  • Interviewer: Oh, so this is how you thought it over.
  • Right. I was just thinking about what would be most favorable toward my putting up "big-character posters."
  • I wanted to write and put up posters, while at the same time I wanted as much as possible to decrease the possibility that authorities would retaliate against me.
  • Interviewer: You really were unusual for the time.
  • I was, definitely. So, in this way, I decided not to sign up to be sent back to the city.
  • I didn't sign up because if I did, I might be sent back to the city, [because] my family was all farm[ers], no work[ers]. In Shanghai, you know, [the policy] at the time was like this.
  • Interviewer: When you say "no work," what you mean is "no workers," right?
  • It means that there were no workers among the children.
  • My two younger brothers had joined production teams, and my younger sister had not yet been assigned [to a job].
  • Interviewer: So this means you met the requirements for being sent back to the city.
  • Right. Three of us were farming. According to Shanghai's [policy], this type of person would be given first [consideration].
  • On May 12 [1972], I put up a "big-character poster" on ruled paper in Shanghai People's Square.
  • Interviewer: Did you write it in calligraphy on "big-character poster" paper?
  • Yes, calligraphy. [Each sheet of] paper must've been larger than a meter.
  • Interviewer: I know what you mean.
  • The poster used up 22 sheets [of paper] altogether.
  • Interviewer: Did you use your real name?
  • [I used] my real name, and my real address.
  • One thing was that, if I used a fake name, I'd never get away; [the authorities] would definitely investigate and find me, who'd put up the poster.
  • Another thing was that if you wrote anonymously, the authorities' [punishment] would be much more severe.
  • Interviewer: So you used your real name, and your real surname?
  • My real name, my real surname, my real address. So, at the time...Now, what did I want to say?
  • Interviewer: After you used your real name and put up the poster, what happened?
  • Oh, it was like this. One possibility was that, before I'd even gotten [the poster] hung up, people would come along and interfere, and take [me] to the public security bureau.
  • To lessen and avoid such a possibility, what did I [do]?
  • You don't have an impression of Shanghai People's Square; it has a long [wall], perfect for putting up my "big-character poster."
  • In fact, I had already gone there and scoped it out.
  • At home, I'd taken each of the pieces of paper, and glued them altogether [in a line].
  • Interviewer: So you could hang them up all at once.
  • Right. If I lessened the time I spent [hanging] it, then I lessened the possibility of the worst-case scenario [happening].
  • [The situation] that day was this: my house had two rooms; one was an attic, [whose ceiling] was a bit over a meter [~3.28 feet] high.
  • The other room was where my parents and my younger sister slept.
  • I slept in the attic, and that's where I spent most of my time.
  • My family didn't pay much mind to what I did up there.
  • The attic was really small, with little headroom, so of course [they thought] it was impossible for me to get into trouble up there.
  • That day, May 12 -- is the [interview] time up?
  • Interviewer: I'm worried someone might need this room I'm in.
  • On the morning of May 12, I left a note for my family.
  • It said, "If something happens to me, I hope my younger brothers and my younger sister will care for Dad and Mom."
  • I went to People's Square. It must have been after five a.m. I had a paste bucket and my poster, and I put it up.
  • It was a bit cloudy that day, but it wasn't raining. Some people came over to look, but not that many; that early there were not many people there.
  • Some people came up and read [the poster], [and said], "Whoa, what are you up to?"
  • After I'd put the poster up, I hurried home.
  • When I got home, my parents and my little sister were not yet out of bed.
  • Since they weren't up yet, I just grabbed the note [I'd left] on the table.
  • I hadn't been taken away by the public security bureau, so I grabbed the note [I'd left] on the table.
  • My sister told me, "Yesterday a friend came to see you, but you weren't here."
  • Of course, I couldn't just hang around the house [because] when my parents got up, the first thing I'd have to talk about [with them] would be this, but how could I tell them this?
  • So, I went on outside, to walk around on the main road.
  • A few times, I rode the bus past the square where I'd hung my "big-character poster," to see what the situation was like.
  • There were still quite a lot of people reading it. In the morning, at least, nothing happened.
  • My little sister had told me, there was a friend who came to see you yesterday.
  • This friend was my high school classmate, who had been assigned [to work] in Shanghai.
  • I should say that after I'd returned to Shanghai from Chongming, I hadn't seen anyone [I knew]; [doing so] might have caused them trouble.
  • I didn't go to see anyone. Since this friend had come to see me, it shows that our relationship was really good.
  • I had not gone to see [him], and it is possible that I might not have been able to see [him] after that, since I was not too hopeful about my future.
  • Under these circumstances, I thought, maybe I should go see him once. After all, if I went to his house, probably no one would know.
  • After I got to his house, I told him frankly that I'd put up a "big-character poster."
  • When it came to politics, his views were similar to my own. He didn't complain, he just asked why I had done what I'd done, how did things turn out like this?
  • I had already bought a return ticket to Chongming. I'd prepared to put up the poster early in the morning, and leave for Chongming at 10 a.m.
  • But since my friend and I got into such a productive conversation at his house, I lost track of time, and didn't think about the departure time for the ferry.
  • At the time, there were two [docks] where you could get the boat from Shanghai to Chongming.
  • One was in the city, and one was in the suburbs. The afternoon voyage left from the suburban [dock].
  • Usually, we'd leave from the city [dock], since there was no reason to go to the suburbs, which were far away.
  • When I was at my friend's house, I thought, why not leave on the afternoon ferry from the suburbs?
  • However, I'd never taken that ferry, and so I got the time wrong; I thought it was leaving at 2 p.m., but actually it was at 1.
  • So, I wasn't able to return to Chongming [that day]. What could I do? I couldn't go home, either.
  • My family definitely knew what was going on, since my home was really close to People's Square -- if you walked, it took less than 10 minutes.
  • Of course they knew! What could I do? I couldn't go back!
  • I just walked around the city. In the daytime I could still walk around, but what would I do at night? Where could I sleep?
  • Then, I thought of an idea: I could go to the train station. There were always people [waiting] at the train station.
  • I didn't have anything with me besides a backpack. I found a corner of the train station, and prepared to spend the night there, then go back to the farm [at Chongming] the next day.
  • From time to time, the public security bureau passed by, doing inspections, looking for suspects.
  • They saw that there was something off about me -- I was rather young, in my 20s, and only carrying a backpack, unlike people on trains who are always carrying a lot of bags.
  • [A police officer] came over and questioned me. I just said I'd gotten into a fight with my family, so I couldn't go home, and I planned to spend the night [in the station].
  • The officer wasn't too suspicious of me, with this story. He took me to another room.
  • The room was full of weird people, or people without identity [papers]. For whatever reason, that's where they [put] me.
  • I looked all around, and it seemed like there were no police watching over the room. It was just a chaotic group of people thrown together.
  • With no police watching, I decided I could slip away. So, I ran down from upstairs, but in reality, there was no escape.
  • Everyone in the room was [under suspicion], so they wouldn't be allowed to run away!
  • I was immediately caught by the police. Now, of course, the situation was different than it had been before.
  • "Why are you trying to run? What is your name, anyway?" [they asked]. I hadn't wanted to tell them my name.
  • People got into fights with their parents all the time -- why did I need to say what my name was?
  • But now it was like an interrogation, whereas before it had just been simple questioning.
  • Under such circumstances, I went ahead and told them, "I put up a 'big-character poster.' I [live in] Chongming," or something like that.
  • At this point it must've already been 11 or 12 at night. A jeep came to take me to the district police department.
  • As soon as I got there, the interrogation started: "Why would you do this?"
  • I said, "I didn't understand it, so I wrote a 'big-character poster' and put it up. I had no ulterior motives."
  • The public security bureau did not severely interrogate me, [but said,] "You don't get it, so we'll lock you up."
  • So they locked me up in a room. There were seven or eight other people there, with a toilet on one side that we all used.
  • When those people saw a newcomer, they got pretty excited. "Why are you here?" [they asked]. I said, "I put up a 'big-character poster.'"
  • They all thought this was weird, and said, "This guy's got meningitis." Meningitis, that's a brain disease.
  • The room was very small; it was a temporary holding cell. There were a lot of cells.
  • I couldn't sleep, with my wild thoughts about what they might do to me the next day.
  • What had I done that day? What was wrong with what I had done? This is what I kept thinking, to no purpose.
  • The next morning, they sent some food for me; it was just like prison food. Did I eat it or not? I didn't eat it; I left it for them [the other prisoners] to eat.
  • Then, they locked me up in my own room. The treatment wasn't bad. It was May, and the weather was really hot.
  • If I needed to use the bathroom, or something like that, I could rap on my door, and they would open it for me.
  • I felt that one of the guards, who was a policeman, was quite kind. The food they gave me wasn't prison food, but rather food they bought.
  • [That guard] asked me what I'd like to eat. I'd never really paid much attention what I ate, and anyway, how would I know what the dining hall offered?
  • I told him that I didn't really care, and so when he went to the dining hall to eat, he brought food back for me.
  • Also, no one interrogated me. I was locked up there for three days. I went in late at night on May 12, and was there until May 16.
  • On May 16, one of the leaders of the farm came and got me out. Actually, he bailed me out. I went back home with him.
  • The leader said, "Next time you get into trouble, get in touch with me; don't try to handle it on your own."
  • At the time,
    the guard who was at the gate said to me, "Because of what happened with you, your mom went to the farm." When I heard this, I felt broken-hearted.
  • Interviewer: That's understandable. You felt that you'd caused problems for your family, caused trouble for your mother.
  • Exactly. This leader took me home. Of course, my family couldn't say anything other than things like, "Just be sure to listen to what the leader tells you."
  • Later, I went [with the leader] back to the farm. [So altogether], I spent about three and half days [on this misadventure].
  • To my surprise, when I got to the farm, there was no problem. It was just like coming back as usual. But there were already a lot of mixed-up rumors.
  • Some people said [I] had committed treason and gone over to the enemy, etc. etc. Every kind of rumor was flying.
  • But there was really nothing to it; going back was pretty much the same as usual.
  • Of course, some people stayed distant from me, but I didn't mind; if someone wasn't willing to associate with me, I didn't really care.
  • Up until July or August, the production team didn't summon me, regardless of this. I mentioned that I wanted to return to Shanghai.
  • Of course, the production team said I couldn't; it wasn't approved.
  • Interviewer: [Later] did you come back to take the university entrance exam?
  • Yes. Later a production team cadre, with whom I had a good relationship, said, "There are instructions for handling your situation in the city; it will be handled internally."
  • Under these circumstances, I knew this situation was [over].
  • After 1971, people were sent back to the city annually; in 1972, of course I did not want to be sent back, and they didn't offer me that.
  • In 1973, I really wanted to be sent back to the city, since by that time my mom had cancer, but they didn't send me.
  • Finally, in 1974, I was sent back to the city, and went to work in a factory for three years, until 1977.
  • Then, I passed the university entrance examination, and I got out.
  • Interviewer: It was not easy. Thank you sincerely for sharing your story with us.
  • Interviewer: I think it's really interesting. I can imagine you were really quite unusual for the time.
  • I was not typical, but there were many people like me.
  • Interviewer: You were free-thinking, and responsible. It wasn't easy. Thank you. Thanks for sharing your story.