The man who accidentally killed Lei Feng, , China's legendary soldier, has confessed his 'guilt' on the front page of a newspaper on the day the nation mourns its hero.
'I drove the truck that knocked the pole that fell on Lei Feng and killed him,' said Qiao Anshan , a 57-year-old retiree living in Liaoning province.
Corporal Lei died on August 15, 1962, and on March 5 the next year Chairman Mao Zedong called on the nation to learn from the 24-year-old martyr.
Although most people believe he never existed, his icon is still hung in nearly every school and he remains the country's greatest soldier-saint. China's propaganda authorities are now trying to revive the cult with a 'blockbuster' film: The Days after I Left Lei Feng, which every member of the Communist Party's Youth League must see.
'Lei Feng changed my life. Everything I do I always think to myself: 'how would Lei Feng have done this?' ' his killer told the Beijing Youth Daily. Each year Mr Qiao makes a pilgrimage to Lei's tomb in Fushun, Liaoning province, to plant a tree and lay a bunch of flowers.
Qiao recalled it was a Sunday when the pair were cleaning a lorry at Fushun Army base. The vehicle was driven to a hose pipe. Then Lei asked the driver to back up.
'A rear wheel struck a pole from which barbed wire hung but I didn't realise this and hit the accelerator hard, pushing over the pole and killing Lei Feng,' Mr Qiao said.
'When I held him on the ground, I saw blood gushing out of his mouth. He was sent to hospital . . . I felt a kind of vacuum in my brain. Can you understand this feeling? Later, in the mortuary, I took his hand and I just wanted to follow him.
'He was my best brother, my best companion, but I was the one who drove that truck.' Until now most Chinese had been led to believe an electricity pylon struck Lei on the head while he carried out an unspecified mission.