Mao Article Elicits Leftist Ire

An article accusing China’s former leader of mass murder sparks a public debate.
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A Chinese policeman stands in front of a portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, Aug. 17, 2008.
A Chinese policeman stands in front of a portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, Aug. 17, 2008.

A group of Chinese adherents to fundamental Maoism is attempting to sue an outspoken economist for his recent essay denouncing the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

Last month, Mao Yushi published an article titled “Decanonize Mao,” exposing a laundry list of atrocities committed by the former leader since 1949, when he founded the People’s Republic of China.

The article suggested that Mao should be held responsible for the deaths of some 30 million Chinese during the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961 and the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.

Mao launched the Great Leap Forward in an effort to rapidly modernize China by collectivizing the country's vast population, but the campaign ended in economic disaster and millions of Chinese starved to death.

Later, in an effort to maintain power, he initiated the Cultural Revolution, plunging the country into a decade of turmoil in which millions of workers, officials, and intellectuals were banished to the countryside for hard labor. Many were tortured, killed, or driven to suicide.

The article has spurred heated debate online, with some calling for the ruling Communist Party to investigate Mao’s crimes, while others accused the economist of slandering Mao and fabricating history. The article was deleted soon after it was published.

Mao Yushi wrote the piece in response to the book The Fall of The Red Sun by Xin Ziling, a former military officer at the China National Defense University. The book thoroughly faults the former leader.

The writings of Mao Yushi and Xin Ziling attracted harsh reactions from a group of staunch Mao Zedong supporters, who on Sunday launched a campaign to publicly denounce and prosecute the two writers.

The group, headed by leftist former official Ma Bin and several of Mao’s family members, published a so-called “public prosecution” against Mao and Xin, charging them with “spreading slander against Mao Zedong, defaming the history of the Communist Party, and inciting political turmoil.”

Abandoned by the government

According to his wife, Mao Yushi was unavailable for comment via telephone on Tuesday.

“He is now in a meeting and he doesn’t carry his cell phone with him,” she told RFA.

But in an interview on Tuesday, Xin Ziling said Mao Zedong’s supporters were targeting him and Mao Yushi because they felt abandoned by the government.

“The Mao supporters and leftists are angry at the current Chinese leadership, but they don’t dare to challenge it. Thus they turned their guns on us old scholars,” he said.

“Why are they angry at the Chinese leadership after Mao? It is because the leaders once passed a resolution to abandon Maoism. This trend can still be seen in the Chinese media.”

Xin said the Mao supporters felt it was safer and more convenient for them to sue two elderly writers than to take on the Chinese government.

Sun Wenguang, a retired professor in eastern Shandong province’s Jinan city, praised Mao Yushi’s article.

“Mao Yushi’s article tells history the way it really is and has had a huge impact on the entire country,” he said.

“In recent years, China’s official CCTV is broadcasting more and more ‘Red Songs’ in praise of Mao Zedong. I think Mao Yushi’s article comes out at just the right time.”

According to reports, the pro-Mao group is calling for online signatures backing the “public prosecution” on the prominent leftist website “Utopia” (, and claims to have already collected more than 10,000 signatures.

They are urging authorities to arrest Mao Yushi and Xin and plan to file the complaint against them with the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, on June 15.

Numbers unconfirmed

The Cultural Revolution has been officially labeled a "mistake” of Mao Zedong and the so called Gang of Four, who launched the initial 1966 campaign against "capitalist roader" officials.

In the ensuing mayhem, qualified professionals like teachers and doctors were locked up in “cow pens,” while schools and universities were closed and health services fell into disarray under the supervision of "revolutionaries."

While the true number of casualties remains unconfirmed to this day, the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend quoted official statistics as saying that 1,772 people died nationwide in the violence, which was encouraged by then supreme leader Mao, the "Red Sun" of the era.

Recent research in the southern city of Shantou alone has shown that 100,000 people were accused as criminals, more than 4,500 were injured or disabled, and some 400 people died.

Communist Party leaders in Beijing still permit no national memorial to the Cultural Revolution, although officials in Guangdong's Shantou city built a museum in 2006, honoring those who died in the southern province.

The museum, which is privately financed and advertises only discreetly on the Internet, sits at the top of Tashan, a mountain where many of the Cultural Revolution dead from the nearby city of Shantou were buried.

Reporting by Xin Yu from Hong Kong for Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.





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