Shanghai Life and Death(28)

“Get up and come here.” The man giving the orders yelled.

I stood up and turned to these new intruders. The speaker was medium-sized, slender and frail, wearing a pair of dark lenses. There was also a man and a woman in the room. Although they all wore cloth pants and ill-fitting shirts and rustic blouses, but the words they spoke, as if they were a little educated. On their armbands was written “Rebel”. They stood face to face with me in a semi-circle. The man spoke to me.

“You are an enemy of the class in this house. Your crime is communicating with foreigners. You have a big poster on your front door, can you still deny it?”

“Of course I don’t admit it. Who are you? What do you want to do?”

“We are the proletarian rebels.”

“Never heard of such an organization.” I said.

“And you will hear a lot about us. We are a rebel faction representing the working class, the leading class in China.” His chin chin went up and he said.

“Are you the same working class that represents the Communist Party?” I asked.

“Shut up! We don’t have to prove our identity to you. You rampant class enemy! You have no right at all to talk about who represents the working class. We have come to join the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in response to Chairman Mao’s call, and that is enough.” The woman with the whip said.

“You class enemy, a lackey of British and American imperialism. You studied at an American-run university in Beijing and then ran away to London and entered a British university. You have been trained to serve imperialism since you were a child.” The man said.

I didn’t even bother to argue with them.

“You feel shameful, so you have nothing to say?” The woman asked.

“What’s shameful? Numerous graduates from Yanjing hold leadership jobs in the party. Studying at a school run by foreigners is not the same as being their lapdog. The London School of Economics is a left-wing university, founded by British Fabian socialists. In fact, it was there that I first read Marx’s Communist Manifesto.” I said to her.

“Hahahaha, what a joke in the sky. An enemy of the class plus an imperialist lackey has read the Communist Manifesto! Next you can join the Communist Party.” The man with the tinted glasses sneered at me.

The woman added: “Lenin exposed the Fabian socialists as reformists. They are not real socialists because they are against violent revolution. You don’t have to flatter us. Your only way out is to come clean.”

“I’m a law-abiding citizen,” I declared, “I work for a foreign company, but I don’t have access to any state secrets, and furthermore, I have no dealings with any foreign governmental parties, and they don’t know me at all.”

Another person said, “You don’t deal with them, but you make friends with many foreign officials.”

“Don’t be nervous. All senior officers of foreign companies are secret agents, and you are not the only one.” Another man said in a long tone.

“Why should foreign governments trust us?” I asked them. “How can they manipulate those of us who live inside China?”

“Humph! You guys, almost every one of you has savings in foreign countries. You don’t want to deny that, do you?” The man said.

“So they don’t have you under control? They can confiscate your property.” The woman added.

“You don’t understand that foreign governments never interfere with banking operations. They have no right to confiscate any private deposits.” I told them.

“Then why do you keep your money overseas? Why would an honest, law-abiding Chinese man keep his money abroad?”

“I often have to go to Hong Kong. There, I have to pay for food and hotel expenses. You know, RMB is not exchangeable for Hong Kong dollars, and our country has foreign exchange regulations that only allow you to bring five US dollars in foreign currency each time you go abroad. Also, I have to get in a little foreign currency from time to time so that I can buy some coal and other things at the overseas exchange stores.” I explained, “I do have some savings overseas, but I own more property in Shanghai. I own this house, here, and I have my only daughter. She is more precious to me than anything else. She is a member of the Communist Youth League. Why should I oppose the Party and the government?”

“Even if your daughter were a Communist, you would still be anti-Party. This is determined by your class nature.” The man with the glasses said, and it seemed that he was a leader.

A few more people came in, followed by my servants. The head man exchanged glances with them inquiringly, and they shook their heads at him. It seems that they did not get the information they needed from my servants.

The one with the glasses viciously said to me, “Where did you hide the gold and weapons?”

“What gold and weapons!” I was puzzled by his question, and it was not until I remembered the editorial in the People’s Daily, which attacked the bourgeois elements for secretly stashing gold and weapons in an attempt to organize a fifth column in the event of a foreign invasion of China, that I realized what they were trying to do with their words.

“You know what kind of gold and weapons I am referring to! Don’t pretend.”

“I don’t have gold weapons. The Red Guards had searched this house inside and out when they came in, and they didn’t find any gold weapons.”

“You’re smart, you hid them. The editorial in the People’s Daily said that the class enemy hid gold weapons. This is a thousand percent true.”

“We have to search out the gold and weapons. If you don’t confess, there will be no good consequences.” The chief said, “Come here, everyone, they must have been hidden in this house.”

I think whether they really believed what was said in the editorial or not, they had to make a very pious statement. In fact, shortly after the liberation of China by the Communists in 1949, a circular was issued that any possession of weapons was illegal and had to be ordered to be handed over to the government, and the Public Security Bureau had conducted a comprehensive search. All former Kuomintang soldiers and policemen were arrested and sent to labor camps. Therefore, in 1966, it was absurd that private weapons were still being kept by civilians.

The rebels still escorted me and my maids and searched the house inside and out. They slashed the Simmons, cut the wrapping of the chairs and sofas, removed the tiles in the bathrooms, got into the fireplace and stuck their heads up the chimney. They also pried open the floor, climbed to the roof to salvage in the water tank. Even the sewer pipes were not spared. Throughout the search, they closely watched my face and the faces of the servants.

It was only when they decided to dig in the garden that I realized that it was dark. The sky was full of dark clouds and low pressure, and it was a dark night. They pulled the lamp onto the lanai and made Lao Zhao send a flashlight. When they came to a pile of coals, they made me and the servants move the coals to the other side of the corner that had already been searched. The wet garden had now been spoiled into a pool of mud, all the flower beds had been dug over with shovels, and the shovels were stuck deep in the soil at the roots of the trees. Even the flowers in the flowerbeds were uprooted. But they still didn’t find anything. The rebels, my maids and I, on the other hand, were already rolling in mud and sweat.