Forty-eight years ago on Aug. 18, 1966, supreme Chinese leader Mao Zedong hosted a rally of more than a million "Red Guards," mingling with the crowd and putting his personal stamp on a decade of political violence and turmoil that was to become the Cultural Revolution. Wang Rongfen was there at the time, as a 20-year-old student, and she spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service about the Red Guards:
I am a witness to history.
I was there on Aug. 18, , and on June 4, . Both happened on Tiananmen Square.
On Aug. 18, Mao Zedong arrived on Tiananmen Square in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission. He was wearing military uniform. But he couldn't find one to fit him, because he was so fat.
He got the biggest size, but it was still all rucked up on his body.
On his left was [second-in-command] Lin Biao in his capacity as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. They both climbed to the platform of Tiananmen Gate.
Lin Biao shouted hoarsely: "We must smash the old world!" Then it was "Long live the great leader, mighty helmsman, Chairman Mao!"
If you have never personally lived through such fanaticism, such ignorance and such violence, you will find it hard to imagine such a scene.
To the right of Mao, [premier] Zhou Enlai held up a selection of Chairman Mao's writings used for propaganda in the military, and was shouting "Long live! Long live! Long live!" along with the rest.
The media was worked up into such a frenzy, with all those editorials in the People's Daily and Red Flag magazine, and the loudspeakers were blaring across Tiananmen Square.
Apart from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, which was under Lin Biao, all of that was under Zhou Enlai's command.
During the period between Aug. 18 and Sept. 2 that year, a total of 1,720 notable people were beaten to death in Beijing.That September, they killed their way to Daxing County [on the outskirts of Beijing] in an evil attack on "middle income peasants."
All of this violence was incited [by the leadership]. It was an overnight bloodbath. Some families were entirely wiped out.
Their methods were the most evil possible. They would beat people to death, from old men in their 80s to a five-week-old baby. They were tortured to death while still conscious. The little baby was hacked to death.
Actually, if we're going to talk about the Red Guards, I think they were much, much worse than the Nazis. But I am just one person who lived through the Cultural Revolution.
They say people are born good or evil by nature.
Well, the people who formed the Red Guards are an example of how people can be born evil.
Of course, our great and mighty leader was their evil boss, and worse than the rest of them.
When they killed people, they were so cruel and brutal. They would beat someone to death, dig a hole and throw them in. They didn't even take them to be cremated.
The Red Guards would always pick on the weakest people and torment them until they died.
They would strip the flesh off people's bones and barbecue it for several days, so the smoke and the smell would be all over the university.
You would never hear about these unimaginable horrors in their reports. But the people are still around [who did these things]. They're still looking pretty lively.
Everyone is responsible for this evil.
Reported by Zhang Min for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.