Shanghai Life and Death(71)

Tao went on to say, like an exhausted man summoning up his remaining energy, in a trembling voice: “My wife, son and daughter-in-law have talked to me, the rebels have talked to me, and the cadres representing the Party and Chairman Mao have talked to me. They inspired me that there was no way out unless I followed Chairman Mao’s teachings. I couldn’t drag them into it. I had to give a full account, break with the old me, and go back to reunite with my family. The only way is to give a complete account.” He paused briefly, hesitated, and then, abruptly, said loudly and firmly: “I am an imperialist agent, and I was introduced to the British secret service by this woman’s husband, the late General Manager Chen of our company. After his death, this woman became my superior. As soon as the Cultural Revolution began, she warned me not to give an account and promised to give me a large sum of money if I kept the secret.”

It was useless to deny or argue with Tao Fang. But I had to stop this farce from going on, and I threw my head back and laughed wildly.

People were caught off guard, the whole meeting was silent. Then several people rushed to my side, and the one behind me started snapping my head again, while another hissed: “What are you laughing at?”

Someone else chimed in, “How dare you laugh!”

There was a commotion at the back of the room and a suppressed snicker, and the tense and solemn atmosphere of a short time ago was completely broken.

The young man presiding over the meeting roared at me in the midst of the commotion, “Why are you laughing? Answer now!”

“If someone is doing a burlesque, then the audience will always laugh. It’s a natural reaction.” I answered with my head bowed to the floor, but with a full voice, spitting out every word clearly so that everyone in the room could hear it. I wanted to encourage our old staff not to be afraid of those “leftist” figures.

“Take her out! Take her out!” The young man jumped furiously and then led the room in chanting slogans to defeat me.

I was dragged out of the meeting like a sack, through the same courtyard I had walked in earlier, and then shoved into a waiting car. A female rebel, with her hand over my mouth, forbade me to speak. I was forcibly pushed into the back seat of the car. Their position seemed awkward: the woman was sitting high on the edge of the seat, and the man, squatting in the front and back seats. The narrow gap between the front and back seats. I felt relieved to have ruined their carefully planned meeting. I don’t know, if I had sat quietly and listened to the revelations by Tao Fang, then what would have followed? Perhaps Taufang was instructed to convince me to admit the nonsense he had uncovered. I think they must have had a reason for appointing me to sit next to him.

What bad luck! When I returned to my cell, I ran into the military woman guard on duty. Needless to say, she naturally didn’t save my rice for me. She didn’t unlock my handcuffs either. As soon as she opened the cell door, she pushed me so hard that I stumbled into the cell and fell onto the bed. Soon after, I heard a footstep in the corridor, and then the male guard who had escorted me in the morning came to summon me for trial again.

The male guard was moving so fast that I couldn’t keep up with him. By the time I reached the interrogation room, I was panting and my heart was pounding.

This time there were eight people. The small room could not accommodate, four people sat against the wall facing the portrait of Mao Zedong, the others were surrounded by interrogators.

The interrogator raised his arm toward the portrait of Mao Zedong, I bowed, and when I straightened up, I could barely stand, I felt the sky spinning, I closed my eyes.

“Stand still!” Who was saying, only to feel that the voice came from far away.

“Explain yourself, why are you laughing!” Another voice floated from far away.

I tried to open my mouth to say something, but no sound came out. I probably passed out from hunger. Anyway, when I opened my eyes, I found myself sitting on the floor, with a female guard holding me up on one side. The handcuffs on my wrists had been removed, the cuff of my left hand was rolled up, and the young doctor was pulling out a large syringe. Then he nodded to the interrogator and left. The female guard pulled me up and pushed me toward the prisoner’s seat, and then she too left.

I still felt my heart palpitating terribly and my lips burning, but I felt better.

“Now answer my question. You have just seen with your own eyes that the others are more conscious than you, that they have come to the stand of the proletarian rebels. They have given a thorough account. What are you going to do? Are you prepared to confess your guilt as they did?” The interrogator asked.

By then I was feeling rejuvenated. The doctor didn’t know what he had given me. Was it just glucose or was there another injection in the mix? Maybe some stimulants were added. At this moment, I just felt very excited, maybe even ready to fight with someone.

Before I could say anything, someone intervened and said, “What are you laughing at? Why are you laughing? There is nothing to laugh about. Being exposed as an imperialist agent is a very serious problem.” This was the voice of the young man who had presided over the assembly at the technical school in the morning, and I looked up at him with curiosity.

To my surprise, listening to his tone and wording, he did not belong to the kind of youth workers I had imagined, only that he was dressed in a uniform that looked like that of an army officer, except that there was no red collar on his collar, which meant that he was not a soldier. His pants were dark gray high-grade tweed, the kind of grade per meter to sell about 30 yuan, equivalent to a worker’s wages for 20 days. He was wearing hair wax on his head, a pair of polished black leather shoes, the left hand shirt cuff bottom, showing a gold watch. This is a young man of about 25 or 26 years old, arrogant and arrogant. I couldn’t figure out who he was, how he was still dressed so well in the Cultural Revolution, and his dress could be accused of being bourgeois. Was he not afraid of being treated as an “enemy”?

A few years later, I realized that his appearance represented the image of some high cadres of the army. His military attire implied that he was associated with the armed forces and therefore he had some kind of legal power. Their father’s official position granted these young men a privilege that set them apart from other rebels. They used their family background as a shortcut to the top.

The sons and daughters of high-ranking army generals became China’s “back door people,” the villainous lawyers who could negotiate with the police for the release of criminals. They could deal with any issue they wanted, from housing allocations to job transfers to import/export trade. This is because they can use their social networks within their own private circles to meet such demands without the approval of the government authorities. Even Hong Kong businessmen, in their eagerness to conclude desirable business contracts with China, first had to “pay tribute” to these fashionable young men. It was common for them to be given suitable jobs so that they could travel freely to and from Hong Kong, smuggle gold and silver and export Chinese artifacts, and then sell television sets, tape recorders, and watches back to China.