Shanghai Life and Death(41)

“It’s not easy to show the evidence and give you a sentence? But this is not the strategy of our great leader. The purpose of this arraignment is to help you change your mind and give you a chance to give a thorough account for leniency. Only then will you be able to make a clean break with the past and be a new man.”

“It’s not like I can do magic tricks and become another person. Nor will I give an account of things that don’t even exist.”

“Maybe you haven’t come to realize that. We are quite patient, and we can wait.” He said word for word with his eyes fixed on me. The subtext was that I was going to be threatened with a long prison sentence.

“What’s not there is not there, and it’s useless for you to wait even for 10,000 years. No matter how long you wait, you can’t change the truth.” I also answered him word for word, without ambiguity, in order to make him perceive that I was not intimidated by him.

“Time changes people. A woman like you will not stay here for five years before your body is ruined. In the end, you will beg us to give you a chance to account for it. Otherwise, you will die here.”

“I’d rather die than lie.”

“Not necessarily! It is the instinct of all creatures to demand survival, and man is no exception.”

“I will follow the teachings of the Great Leader: one is not afraid of suffering, the other is not afraid of death.”

“That quotation cannot be applied to people like you; it was addressed to the soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.” He said angrily.

“Vice Commander Lin said: the teachings of the Great Leader Chairman Mao are universally applicable to all people and all things.” Since I had demolished the arraigner’s lies, I felt only refreshed and began to take a keen interest in the interrogation. It was far better than being alone in a damp, dark cell.

After a while of cold exchange, the arraigner looked over my shoulder and behind me again, and then he said: “You are arrogant, and this is not going to solve the problem. The only way out for you is to give an honest account and correct your attitude. My task is to help you fully understand the state policy and make it clear to you that there is no way out except to be honest, to give a full account of your crimes, and to repent completely. Don’t ignore the dictatorship of the proletariat! The arraignment here is of the same nature as the People’s Court. Your speech here must be absolutely serious.”

“Can’t I expect the government to do justice?”

“Justice? What justice! It is but a term, an abstract term, with no concrete meaning. Different classes have their different senses of justice. The bourgeoisie sees the exploitation of workers as perfectly just, while the working class sees exploitation as unjust. In any case, what are you? entitled to demand justice? Do you ever think about justice while you sit in a heated room while everyone else freezes in the snow and wind?”

“You are confusing social justice with legal justice. I tell you very clearly that it was because my late husband and I wanted the people’s government to change the situation in China so that no one would ever suffer from hunger and cold again that we stayed in China in 1949 and did not go to Taiwan with the Kuomintang.” I said to him.

“In any case, we don’t have to pursue abstract concepts about ‘justice’. The army, the police, the courts, are instruments of dictatorship for the oppression of one class by another class. They have nothing to do with ‘justice’. The cell in which you are now imprisoned was used by the KMT reactionaries to imprison Communists in the past. Now the dictatorship of the proletariat uses the same instruments of dictatorship against its own enemies. Those capitalist countries use these catchy words, such as ‘justice’, ‘freedom’, etc., to paralyze the masses of people in order to suppress their revolutionary consciousness. If you want to establish the right attitude, you have to get this garbage out of your head, otherwise you will only die.”

What he said was not new to me and to the ordinary people who were still living in China after 1949. It was the accepted Marxist theory of class struggle. “The army, the police and the courts are the instruments of oppression of one class by another.” These words are from Mao Zedong’s On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship. In the 1950s, it was the views of On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship that were officially applied to explain the Communist regime.

This interrogation was fruitless. The arraigner in no way touched on any of the substantive issues, and therefore could not clarify the facts. My own worldview and values have long been set in stone. I am not in favor of a strict division of people into a few eternal classes, nor do I believe that class struggle is the driving force behind the advancement of society. I believe that China needs a stable environment to unite all social classes to rebuild a new China after a long period of war, rather than adopting the theory of “constant revolution. But there was nothing I could do about it. Unfortunately, the arraigner did not realize this, at least not at the time. He simply expected to confuse my thinking, alternating between intimidation and sophistry, to overwhelm my rebuttal. The interrogation was merely a delay, a fatigue bombing. Because of my cold, my temples were bursting with pain, so I had to adopt a listening attitude.

After a moment of silence, the interrogator went on to say: “The prerequisite for an explanation is a confession of guilt. You must confess not only to the crimes you committed against the government, but also to the crimes you committed against your own consciousness. Confessing your guilt is like pulling the gate, even if you don’t think it through for a while, but as long as you can honestly admit that you are really guilty, really anti-government and anti-people, then the account will be ready.”

He paused again to see how I would react. He said I was anti-government. Of course, I had opposed some government measures, such as arresting some innocent people, classifying people as enemies by their origin, etc. I never told him about these ideas. But I have never told anyone about these ideas. Of course, I did not interfere in any way with these measures. I only hoped that in the future, when the Communist regime had matured and gained experience, these phenomena would disappear on their own. The arraigner tried to instill in me a sense of guilt. He understood that in any country, citizens are bound to have grown discontent with certain policies of the government at a certain time. He hoped to set a trap in my psyche to get me to take the bait, but I saw through his motives right away. I just sat there coldly, unresponsive. My mind was filled with thoughts of the meritorious side of the government: improvements in public health, job placement for the hoboes …… and so on. In general, I have always been a supporter of the people’s government. This gave me the courage to defeat the sense of guilt instilled in me by the arraigner. This proved to be a priceless treasure during the years of imprisonment that followed.