Liberal website pulls 'Cultural Revolution confession' writing contest

Editor suggests decision made after pressure from authorities

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 11:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 1:05pm

A day after launching a “writing competition” to encourage first-person confessions from former Cultural Revolution Red Guards, a leading liberal website in China was forced to scrap the project.

An editor, surnamed Yuan, at also known as “Consensus Network,” suggested to the South China Morning Post in a phone interview on Friday that the website had been pressured by authorities to stop the competition. But he declined to elaborate further.

The original online statement calls for submissions from former Red Guards who had attacked families, teachers and school principals to draft their personal experiences, reflections, and confessions “before it’s too late”.

“If we wait a few more decades, these people might no longer be alive,” said the ad. “And this period of bloody history will be gone with the last bit of humanity.”

The decision to withdraw the writing contest, announced on Thursday, the first day of former Communist party high-flyer Bo Xilai’s trial, disappointed many readers.

“Is it because our government still believes the movement is a righteous one?,” a microblogger wrote.

“They apparently regulate everything - including confessions,” another one wrote.

Several former Red Guards have apologised to their victims publicly in recent months.

A most recent and widely-reported apology came from Chen Xiaolu, a former Red Guard and youngest son of civil war and Sino-Japanese war hero Marshal Chen Yi. He apologised this week for attacking teachers at Beijing No 8 middle school during the Cultural Revolution.

Chen said that he decided to make an official apology after realising how little China's younger generation knew about human rights abuses during the Cultural Revolution.

In an article titled “it will be too late if you don’t apologise now,” published on Consensus Network on Friday, Zhang Ming, an outspoken Renmin University political scientist, encouraged more former Red Guards to make their own confessions.

“Most people who claim to be victims of the Cultural Revolution had also attacked and hurt others,” he wrote. “Only through confessions and apology will we prevent similar national disasters from happening again.”

The "Great Cultural Revolution", which was started by Mao Zedong in 1966 and ended after his death a decade later, still remains a sensitive subject in China.

Armed conflicts broke out between different factions of Red Guards, fanatical young people inspired by Mao to "continue the revolution", soon after the mass movement began. Educators, targeted as “capitalist intellectuals,” were insulted, tortured, and even killed by their students.

After a brief period of official soul-searching and semi-open discussion about the wrongs done to millions, the Communist Party tried to avoid mentioning the tumultuous period. It still keeps tight control on discussion of it in the press.

Many believe the government fears an open debate could be used to undermine its official history of a period.

Read more SCMP China Insider stories written by Amy Li or follow her on Twitter