Shanghai Life and Death(73)

The next day it rained, neither the winter kind of bone-chilling gloomy rain, nor the summer days of lightning thunderstorm, but the kind of smoky trickle of rain, it quietly nourished the earth, woke up the sound of the green plains. It tells people that spring has returned to the earth. I love the fragrance of the earth after a spring rain, which brings new hope, meaning brimming with fragrant flowers and lush blue grass. Winter says goodbye to me. The slightly better food, vitamin pills and improved attitude of the guards made me feel that my situation was changing for the better. I was relieved and optimistic that I had survived the persecution. I was not as depressed about the future as I used to be.

This feeling of relief lasted until the next day, when I was summoned for interrogation again, and I followed the guards in high spirits. This time the only person sitting behind the high platform was the young worker and the well-dressed youth.

When I entered the interrogation room, the guards closed the door. The young worker waved his hand at the portrait of Mao Zedong and I bowed. He asked me to read the following quotation: “Revolution is not a treat, not an article, not a painting and embroidery, not that elegant, that calm, that refined, that gentle, that frugal. A revolution is an insurrection, a violent action by one class to overthrow another.”

“Do you love England more than China?” He asked.

“I am a Chinese citizen, so naturally I love China more.” I replied.

“If we don’t involve the word ‘citizen’, you still love China more?”

“I have Chinese blood in my veins, so of course I love China more. I’ve always been a patriotic Chinese.”

“You were in America in 1940?”

“Yes, I was there for a few months.”

“Did you give speeches there?”

“Yes, I gave several lectures about the Japanese invasion of China.”

“I am in possession of material proving that you gave a presentation there extolling the British war effort, which you performed on New York radio. Your friends at Yenching University heard your broadcast, and they have now given an account of it and provided us with this material. It is possible that you have made speeches on this elsewhere. After you returned to Chungking, you also made propaganda on Kuomintang radio. You claimed that the British imperialists were heroes and that they would never surrender until they had achieved final victory. Did the British government authorize you to make propaganda for them? Was it in 1940 that you had been called up by them to join the army? Answer!”

“I was on a British passenger ship from England to New York, and many passengers met on the radio program. Those who met me asked me questions about England, and naturally I answered them truthfully.” I said.

“You are propaganda for the British.”

“In World War II, China and Britain were allies.”

“That wasn’t in 1940. At that time, Britain was still assisting the Japanese. What you have done shows that you have been a British agent since 1940.”

“Nonsense. I was just a Chinese tourist who was deeply moved by the cost and perseverance of the British in fighting alone against Hitler’s ambition to conquer all of Europe.”

“Who would believe you. You were then an echo of the British imperialist propaganda apparatus, and we thought you loved England more than China.”

“If you want to think so, so be it. But you must have evidence to substantiate the charges against me.”

“There will be evidence. We will prove that you are not patriotic, but are only using it to cover up your crimes.”

He took a small dark brown folder out of his desk and began flipping through it, and I could only see the back of the folder. I wondered what on earth he was looking at so intently. Suddenly he turned the folder around to me and I saw a black and white photo stuck inside. It was taken in the early 1950s when I was dancing with a Swiss friend in a French nightclub in Shanghai. At that time, the French nightclub had not yet ceased to operate, and an unemployed photographer had taken many shots of the club’s customers and sold them for one yuan each. When the Red Guards raided the house, they took my photo album around the same time. My Swiss friend was a very good dancer and could do several fancy dance steps. In the photo, he was teaching me a new dance step and we were both laughing.

“Can you say that this is called patriotic?” The young man spoke with a stern look, as if I was being seduced into doing something unseemly and scandalous.

“What is the relationship between dancing and patriotism?” I was really a little confused.

“You dance with a foreigner, and you look, like you’re giddy, that confirms that you’re not patriotic.”

“Dancing with a foreigner is unpatriotic?” He really startled me with this attack. But I immediately calmed down and thought about how to argue with him in order to turn myself to my advantage. I continued, “I don’t know, dancing with foreigners is unpatriotic. But you are a wise Marxist and a rebel, and I must accept the criticism of my superiors. But even if you think I am unpatriotic, there is still so little use for me as a person. It is still a great honor for me.”

“What use value?”

“Oops, didn’t you just say that? It’s unpatriotic to dance with a foreign entry. So by dancing with my Swiss friend, am I not prompting him, the Swiss, to be unpatriotic? Because to him, I am also a foreigner. If I can make others unpatriotic with such an easy activity as dancing, doesn’t that prove that I am still useful? If it works, all you have to do is to send me out to dance with all the foreigners in the world who are enemies of China, so that they will no longer be patriotic, and then you can get rid of them all without a single bullet. I couldn’t hold back the glee that was welling up inside me, so excited that I stammered the last few words.

The young man’s face was full of iron, only to see his face sink, pointing at the door of the interrogation room and thundering: “Get out. I’ll have you shot!”

He was so angry that he stepped towards me, and I rushed out of the interrogation room. But the guards who were to escort me back to my cell were nowhere to be seen in the corridor, so I had to wait while I tried to restrain myself from laughing. I thought it would be inappropriate and imprudent to laugh in such an inhumane place. They might really think I was crazy and send me to the mental hospital in a dignified and justified manner.

However, it’s never a good idea to mock any powerful superior. By the next day, I knew this for sure.