During my ten years in China, many people told me stories of barely imaginable cruelties that took place during the political campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s.
I knew Environmentalist Tang Xiyang. Tang told me how his wife, a middle school teacher, had been murdered by her own students because she refused to divorce him.
I knew Chongqing writer and former “rightist” confined to Mao’s gulags for two decades Kong Lingping. Kong was a mechanical engineering student at Chongqing University. His error was having parents with the wrong family background. Not even landlords, his parents had been school teachers during the pre 1949 Nationalist Period. His mother rejected his father’s urging that the family flee to Taiwan. No, she said, we have many friends who are communists. Everything will be fine.
I knew Chengdu writer Yin Shuping, who had been a very young war correspondent during the War to Oppose America and Support [North] Korea. Later in the 1950s, as a convinced communist and successful poet, Yin went on the Chinese delegation headed by Hu Yaobang to the Moscow Youth Congress. He got into trouble for defending fellow Chengdu poet Liu Shahe who had been accused of being a rightist. Yin Shuping was himself labelled a rightist and sent to the gulags for over twenty years.
The story of Vice Premier Liu He’s father reminds me of my September 2005 visit to Mianyang, Sichuan. While there, I walked in a city park with a physician from the adjacent hospital. As we walked through the park on a comfortable evening with many young families with children wandering about, the doc told me as we approached a monument topped with a red star, that here, during the Cultural Revolution, he had seen several people kill themselves there, feeling that there was no way to endure the intense persecutions of the so-called “struggle sessions” they were subjected to.
I read the inscriptions on the monument. Translated into English, there are
Long Live the Magnificent, Glorious and Correct Communist Party of China!
Long Live the Dictatorship of the Proletariat!
I wonder sometimes how knowledge of this history, to the extent that people are able to become aware of it, affects the thinking of Chinese people today. After all China, for all the changes that have come since the refounding of the PRC at the beginning of reform, has much the same totalitarian operating system as before: absolute one party rule and the dictatorship of the proletariat led by the Party.
I remember striking up a conversation with a group of students I ran into on the Zhejiang University campus in 1998 after finishing a meeting in nearby downtown Hangzhou. The students told me that the Cultural Revolution could never come again. I mischievously remarked, “That is just what people were saying in the early 1960s — something like the Great Leap Forward will never happen again. The system is fundamentally the same. You have no institutional guarantees.”
Today I came across this May 2018 Chinese language article from the Epoch Times. Translated below followed by original Chinese text from the Epoch Times website.
Liu He’s Family Detail Revealed: His Father Was Persecuted to Death During the Cultural Revolution
[The Epoch Times May 26, 2018] (Epoch Times reporter Wen Pu report) The family history of PRC Vice Premier Liu He was revealed just before his the Chinese delegation returned to the United States for trade negotiations. Liu He’s grandfather, Liu Yulou, worked in the financial industry. His father was a senior Chinese Communist Party official who was persecuted to death during the Cultural Revolution.
According to a May 25 Australian News Network [Aozhou xinwenwang https://www.huaglad.com/ ] report, Liu He’s grandfather Liu Yulou’s birth name was Run Chun and went by the name of Yulou, and lived in Lianghe Village in Changli County, Hebei Province. Liu Yulou was born on the 24th day of the fourth lunar month of the fourteenth year  of the reign of the Qing Emperor Guangxu into a Lianghe Village peasant family. Liu Yulou’s father, Liu Guanru, an excellent farmer, supported his family by farming.
Liu Yulou studied for a few years in a private school and wanted to get an education, his father did not take education seriously. When Liu Yulou was 13, he married him off early and wanted to tie him down to the land and the family farm. Liu Yulou got very upset about this. Finally, his mother-in-law sold her own land so that he could go to the Yongpingfu Middle School and then to the Daqing Bank’s banking school to study banking.
After graduating from the banking school, Liu Yulou entered the financial industry. He worked in Daqing Bank, Bank of China, Border Industry Bank, Agricultural and Industrial Bank, and Donglai Bank. He was a bank accountant in Dalian, Qingdao, Tianjin and Beijing, and later became a manager.
Later, Liu Yulou had to resign because he had offended his superiors. With the help of an introduction from his classmate Li Shuhua, vice president of the National Peking Research Institute he got a job at there. First, he taught an accounting class, and later served as an acting department manager and secretary to the acting general manager.
Liu Yulou had four children, the eldest daughter named Liu Zhilian, the second daughter named Liu Zhilan, and son Liu Zhiyan, and the third daughter Liu Zhiyu.
Liu Zhiyan, the only son of Liu Yulou and the father of Liu He, was was born on February 7, 1918.
At age 18, Liu Zhiyan joined the Chinese Communist Party and served as leader of the 5th District Team of the Vanguards of the National Liberation of China. He was then sent to work among the former subordinates of [note: warlord] Sun Dianying as the secretary of the CPC branch and as secretary of the local working committee.
In 1940, he began serving in the Chinese Communist base area successively as the head of the Propaganda Section of the Taiyue District Committee of the Communist Party of China, joint appointment as the first district party secretary and the political commissar of the First Military subdistrict of the Taiyue District; joint appointment as the Minister of Propaganda Department of Yuebei District Committee and the Secretary of the Shiliu County Committee; and joint appointment the Secretary of the Eleventh Jinsui Base Area District Party Committee and the Political Commissar of the Eleventh Jinsui Base Area Military Sub District.
In May 1949, Liu Zhiyan was transferred back to Beijing. He worked first in the Central Policy Research Office, then a Counselor in the Advisors’ Office of the Government Council. Then he was appointed Deputy Director of the Third Bureau of the Ministry of Personnel, and then Deputy Director of the First Bureau. In the autumn of 1952, he was transferred to the Central Organization Department, where he served as deputy director of the cadre management department and then served in various posts such as director of the second cadre management department. It is said that Liu Zhiyan was a relatively famous “pen” of the Central Organization Department documents. He drafted many documents, reports, and editorials
In July 1958, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Organization Department send Liu Zhiyan to Yunnan Province where he served as secretary of the Kunming Municipal Party Committee and member of the Standing Committee of the Yunnan Provincial Party Committee. After the establishment of the Southwest Bureau in 1961, he successively served in posts such as as head of the Organization Department of the Southwest Bureau, Secretary-General, Secretary of the Secretariat.
At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Liu Zhiyan was first appointed as the leader of the Southwestern Cultural Revolution Committee, but was later considered to be affiliated with the faction of Liu Shaoqi and An Ziwen, and was purged. Liu Zhiyan thus became the object of brutal struggle sessions.
A Red Guard rebel faction booklet published at the time stated “The Southwest Bureau headed Li Jingquan and Liu Zhiyan, … must be thoroughly purged for the heinous crimes that they have committed during the Cultural Revolution!” The booklet also contains Liu Zhiyan’s “confession”.
On December 12, 1967, Liu Zhiyan, unable to endure unspeakable insults, killed himself by jumping from where he was being held on the ninth floor the Jinjiang Hotel in Chengdu. He was age 49. His son Liu He was was 15 years old when his father killed himself.
According to another overseas website “Democratic China website” [minzhuzhongguo.org] editor Cai Chu disclosed on October 24, 2018 that he had seen with his own eyes the horrible sight of Liu Zhiyan being persecuted to death.
In April 1968, Cai Chu went to the Chengdu Funeral Parlour to deal with the funeral of his friend. When he went into the freezer room to retrieve his friend’s body, he saw that the body at the lower left had a sign attached to it: “Liu Zhiyan, Secretary of the Southwest Bureau Secretariat, December 12, 1967”
He pulled the corpse out to look at it. “I saw the corpse was fairly long and dressed neatly. but the whole head was wrapped in gauze, wearing a cap and still had bloodstains.”
Cai Chu saw from the card, that the deceased has been dead for nearly half a year, but no relatives have come to mourn home. This made a deep impression on him.
Cai Chu asked the workers at the funeral home about him and was told that the accused Liu Zhiyan was detained at the Jinjiang Hotel in Chengdu, was subject to a struggle session there and killed himself by jumping off the 9th floor of the hotel.
However, there are also reports quoting Liu Zhiyan’s wife that Liu Zhiyan was beaten to death by the Chinese Communist Party rebel faction and that they faked a suicide by dumping his body from the ninth floor.
Liu He is the only son of Liu Zhiyan and his first wife. He was born on January 25, 1952. Liu Zhiyan had another son and daughter by his second wife.
Liu He studied in Beijing 101 Middle School, where others of the Red second generation also gathered. Xi Jinping was a classmate. In 1969, Liu He went down to the countryside to Jilin Province to join a production team. The next year he joined the Chinese Communist’s so-called “Ace Army” the 38th Army. Three years later, Liu He retired from the PLA and went to the Beijing Radio Factory where he was a worker and later became a cadre.
After the end of the Cultural Revolution, the college entrance examinations resumed. Liu He became part of the first batch of post Cultural Revolution college students. He studied in the Department of Industrial Economics at Renmin University. In 1988, Liu He worked at the State Planning Commission. He studied in the United States from 1992 to 1995 and obtained a degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School.
Why was Liu He, the son of the “capitalist roader” Liu Zhiyan, not attacked at the same time as his father? In 1969, he could still be considered politically qualified enough to be accepted as a soldier. Some analyze it this way: after Liu Zhiyan divorced his first wife, Liu He lived with the first wife. Liu He’s political status should have been determined by that of the first wife and of his stepfather and so his father’s status would not necessarily affect his political suitability for joining the People’s Liberation Army.
Editor in charge: Sun Wei