Shanghai Life and Death(57)

“Report!” I called as hard as I could as I walked to the cell door.

“What is it?” The guard paced slowly to my door and said lazily, “I’ve told you several times not to shout.”

“How much longer do I have to wait before the government investigates my case? It’s against the law and against Chairman Mao’s teachings to put an innocent man in prison.” In fact, in his four volumes of writings, there is never a mention of this aspect. But I confirmed that these semi-literate guards would never have read Mao’s writings comprehensively.

“Shhh! Don’t make any loud noise. The state will deal with your case in turn, and you are not the only one in prison.”

“But I have been here for a long time, and I demand to see an interrogator.” I said deliberately letting go of my throat.

“Lighten up! You can’t make a lot of noise. The inquisitor is very busy.” In fact, I knew very well that there was no interrogator working at all, and she knew full well that I understood the situation, but everyone was just unaware of it.

There was a perverse silence around us, and our voices carried to all four corners of the building. I knew that the other prisoners were listening to our conversation because it was their only pastime. I also knew full well that they would feel happy when they heard that a prisoner was provoking the guards, because I myself felt the same way. By doing so, I would feel that I was spiritually united with them and thus no longer felt alone. This wordless empathy encourages me. Although I would feel tired from shouting, I kept my spirits up.

“I am innocent, I have never committed a crime, I have never done anything against the people or the government. You have no right to imprison a law-abiding citizen! I demand restoration of my honor and an apology!” I let go of my throat and shouted.

“Are you crazy? Be quiet.” The guard yelled in a fury.

“I’m not crazy. The person who sent me to jail is crazy.”

“You’ll be punished for making trouble.” A rush of footsteps passed, and another guard came to help. He said, “If you engage in disorder now, you are committing a crime!”

“Our great leader Chairman Mao said, ‘Present the facts and reason,’ and I am acting in accordance with Chairman Mao’s instructions. I am not guilty. I have not committed a crime.” I argued in a loud voice.

“Come out!”

The young guard opened the cell door and escorted me to a room at the end of the prison building so that our arguments would not reach the other prisoners. Sometimes when I was really tired, I had to give in and stop talking. But there were also times when my staying power exceeded the patience of the guards, and then they used violence to subdue me, beating and kicking. They called me the “crazy old lady”. They also often headache because of my “madness”. But they never understood the real purpose of my provocations to them. During my six and a half years in captivity, whenever I could not sleep due to excessive anxiety, I would take the opportunity to provoke the guards and vent my frustrations!

Although my arms were bruised and swollen, and my legs were bruised and battered by big leather boots, I experienced a humorous pleasure in the dispute with the guards, and my mood would calm down. But slowly, the mood will become anxious and restless again, I crave for human interaction, even if the dispute with the guards contradict, but also better than completely isolated from others. In addition, resistance, is also a positive move, than patience, repression, are easy to uplift the human spirit. This is a fine character of the Chinese people. Many of my friends survived the Cultural Revolution by overcoming the persecution of the Red Guards and the rebels. For me personally, I can only use active resistance as a stimulant to motivate my will.

On August 6, a particularly hot and muggy day, the newspaper came late. I could only hear the male guard who delivered the newspaper saying to the guard on duty, “There is important news today!” What was the news? But I had to wait until bedtime to read the newspaper.

On the front page of that day’s newspaper was a headline in large red letters across the entire page, reporting that Mao Zedong had sent a basket of mangoes to the workers’ and peasants’ representatives who were stationed at Tsinghua University to lead the student revolution. The basket of mangoes was originally a gift from the visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister to Mao Zedong. Those workers’ and peasants’ representatives were flattered when they received the mangoes. They were overjoyed. They chanted slogans, burst into tears of excitement, and sang Mao’s quotations to show their loyalty to the leader.

Although I was not aware that just a few days earlier, Mao had summoned the head of the Red Guards in Beijing to deny his relationship with them as “Red Commander” and criticize their aggressive behavior. But I think Mao’s public presentation of mangoes to the workers’ and peasants’ representatives had a significant political meaning. He sent the workers’ and peasants’ representatives to Tsinghua University, a famous academic institution known for its militant and barbaric Red Guards, in order to suppress the young rebels there. Sending gifts to the workers and peasants but not to the Red Guards was undoubtedly an obvious warning to the Red Guards of Tsinghua University, nothing more than a trick to make them stick to discipline and accept the diversion of the working class to them.

In the following days, newspapers reported in successive articles on the organization of “Workers’ and Peasants’ Maoist Propaganda Teams” throughout the country, publishing pictures of their presence in universities and other schools. Although they were called “Workers’ and Peasants’ Propaganda Teams for Mao Zedong Thought,” there were no peasants in them, only a few workers. The main members were demobilized soldiers and Communist Party cadres whom the ultra-leftists considered to be their loyalists, such as Mao’s wife Jiang Qing and Defense Minister Lin Biao.

When the leftists took control of the Red Guards, the higher-ups in the Beijing government continued their efforts to organize revolutionary committees at the provincial and municipal levels and assigned new heads to them. Articles were commonly published in the newspapers stating that such bodies should be set up without delay to meet the Ninth Party Congress in a great way. I think this was a desperate attempt by the ultra-leftists, who already had great power in their hands, to gain a leading position and thus be elected to the Central Committee or the Politburo in order to avoid losing the great power they already had.

It was autumn again, and every time it rained, the temperature dropped a few degrees, but I still insisted on exercising my mental and physical strength as a way to maintain my health. But my health is still deteriorating rapidly. A new symptom hit me hard: I was bleeding heavily every time I had a period, and the intervals were getting shorter and shorter, and then it gradually developed to a few days of bleeding every ten days. I was in a bit of a panic about this. I was afraid to ask for treatment because I still remembered the skill of the young “doctor” who had no medical knowledge. Once again, I felt depressed and desperate, and I had nightmares at night, waking up sweating and panting.