An ageing former Red Guard from Shandong province placed an apparently unprecedented magazine ad to apologise to his victims.
The latest edition of the liberal monthly Yanhuang Chunqiu published the ad and two related letters to the editor from Liu Boqin last week, prompting a wide discussion online.
"I was naive, easily bamboozled, and never distinguished good from bad," Liu confessed in a letter.
Liu said he beat teachers, spat on them, and terrorised some families. He also played practical jokes on his neighbours, such as throwing firecrackers into their courtyards in the dead of night.
In his letter, Liu states he is from Jinan , the provincial capital. His family, from an official background, lived in a compound belonging to the Shandong Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee. The fact that he was in junior high school in the early days of the Cultural Revolution means he is in his early 60s.
"As I grow older, I have a more profound understanding of the sins of the Cultural Revolution," he wrote. "I cannot forget what I've done wrong."
Years after that tumultuous period, which ran from 1966 to 1976, Liu has searched for those he once attacked as a Red Guard. He said that he was able to apologise to some victims and received forgiveness.
His letter lists nine names. "I want to apologise to all victims and their families to obtain psychological relief. An open letter is simple and clear," he wrote.
The magazine yesterday used its weibo account to tweet two recent messages from Liu giving more details of his feelings of remorse. Last night the post had been retweeted 1,179 times and attracted 205 comments.
It is not the first time that Yanhuang Chunqiu has published a confession of a Red Guard. In 2010, Beijing based Wang Jiyu, born in 1951, wrote an article in the magazine describing how he had beaten someone to death during the Cultural Revolution.
Zhu Xueqin, a history professor at Shanghai University, said it was significant that an open apology from a former Red Guard had been published at this moment.
"It reminds us that it's necessary to dig deeper for the systematic reasons that caused the Cultural Revolution," he said.
During the past three decades of economic reform, discussion of the disastrous persecution instigated by Mao Zedong has occurred at crucial moments. "Last year's scandal involving Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai and his red culture movement marked a return of sorts to the Cultural Revolution," he said.
Early this year, Communist Party chief Xi Jinping's remarks that the economic opening-up should not be seen as a refutation of Mao's reign caused controversy among liberals.