Outcry as Chinese students recreate Red Guard persecution for yearbook photos

Heilongjiang pupils spark outcry online and abroad for play-acting scenes from turbulent era

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 11:01pm

Chinese students dressed up as the Red Guards and imitated a Cultural Revolution scene for their graduation photos, drawing heated criticism for rehashing a turbulent chapter of Chinese history.

Wearing green military uniforms and red armbands, several college students in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, posed as if they were criticising or interrogating their classmates, according to news portal Gmw.cn.

Those being confronted wore high, white, pointed hats and wore a “board of crimes” on their chests – reminiscent of the victims in the Cultural Revolution.

Mao Zedong’s Red Guards, numbering in the millions, were mostly teenage students who spurned classes to help carry out Mao’s purge of counter-revolutionary intellectuals, artists and others. The feared guards also helped burn books, public collections of art and other works during the upheaval from the 1960s to 70s.

Many former Red Guards have since sought repentance for their acts during that period.

The Harbin students were criticised as “ignorant” and “foolish” by commentators on Weibo, who reprimanded the graduation photos as a “blasphemy of history”.

The Weibo users said the students reduced a time of pain, bitterness and trauma into frivolous play-acting.

The Beijing News said in a commentary: “High pointed hats, crime boards, red armbands – all these terrifying signs of the Cultural Revolution were represented so frivolously in these students’ photos. It can be seen that these graduating students are far from being [qualified] in some respects.”

The photos also elicited reactions from foreign observers. One German citizen commented online: “It is unimaginable that we German and Jewish people would shoot this kind of graduation photography.

“We have no Kong Qingdong in our Education Department, no Sima Nan in our media and no portrait of Hitler hanging on our Brandenburg Gate,” the German said, referring to the iconic national landmark in Berlin.

Kong is a prominent Maoist academic while former TV host Sima Nan has caused controversy for neo-Maoist views.