A former education official has demanded an apology from his attackers during the Cultural Revolution after reports of a rare message of contrition from a Red Guard emerged last month.
The 70-something retired official from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region said he was beaten during the tumultuous period from 1966 to 1976. In a letter to the editor in liberal newspaper Southern Weekly, Liu Guoren said one of his attackers had asked him not to seek revenge.
“[During] the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, I was publicly denounced and humiliated over 100 times, not to mention the countless beatings," Liu wrote. "But I still have yet to receive anyone’s apologies.”
“I have participated in nearly all political movements as early as the 1950s but rarely have I heard of apologies made to victims whose families were broken up from violence,” he said. “After I was vindicated, the person who once treated me the worst only pleaded that I don't seek vengeance. So, it seems to me, the idea of an apology had never occurred to him.”
Liu’s letter came just weeks after a former Red Guard disregarded family pressure to issue a rare public apology for his conduct during the Cultural Revolution. Liu Boqin, a retired official in Jinan, Shandong province, confessed in a liberal monthly magazine to committing violence on teachers and classmates when he was only 14. Red Guards were youths mobilised and sent forth to implement Mao Zedong's ideals.
The apology letter has been widely praised online, with many internet users urging that more former Red Guards step forward and apologise. It also led people to reflect on the social turmoil more than 40 years ago, a sensitive subject in China even though it was officially denounced in 1981 by the Communist Party.
“Individual reflection is still indispensable amid overall denunciation … only when more people dare to come forward and bravely face their own past, can a nation truly reach conciliation with its past and walk towards the future,” noted an editorial in The Beijing News.
Liu Guoren, in his letter, also lauded the former Red Guard’s brave deeds in expressing remorse. “One should always apologise with sincerity to his victims, regardless of whether the misconduct was intentional or not. This is the bottom line of a human being,” he wrote.
According to a profile on Beijing Normal University's website about Liu Guoren, he was born in Jiangsu in 1935. In 1960s and 1970s, he “gained experience and knowledge through self-study during the difficult years of the Cultural Revolution", it reads, and became a middle school principal in Inner Mongolia in 1980s before taking a post in the region’s education bureau. Liu retired in 2003.