Shanghai Life and Death(74)

I had just finished that morning meal when I was summoned to the interrogation room. After bowing to the statue of Mao Zedong, the same young man gave me a copy of Mao’s Selected Works, Volume IV, and turned to the Letter Urging Du Iu-ming and Others to Surrender. It was a letter drafted by Mao Zedong in December 1948. At that time, the Kuomintang army was surrounded by the Communist army on the north bank of the Yangtze River, near the Kuomintang capital of Nanjing. That letter hinted to the Kuomintang that they were at the end of their tether and urged the Kuomintang generals that it would be better to surrender.

“Read this letter aloud.” The young man ordered me.

I read that article once, and when I finished, I tried to give him back the book. Instead, he said, “Read it again and imprint every word into your irredeemable head.”

I read it again. When I had finished reading again, he said, “Have you understood everything that is said in it? Do you realize that you yourself have entered into a situation where you are in a quagmire on all sides? You are surrounded like a KMT general. No one can help you, the only way out is – surrender.”

I was silent. He stared at me with fiery eyes for a moment, then yelled, “Read it again! Suck all those words deep into your granite-like head.”

I stood in the interrogation room for hours that day, reading the article over and over again until I was dizzy, my voice was hoarse, and my feet were swollen. In the evening, I was so exhausted and my voice was so weak that I could barely make a sound. The words I read were also broken. Gradually, I was able to recite the entire article without looking at the book, just close my eyes and read it out slowly. Later, both of my hands hanging down weakly with the book, but whenever I paused or took a break, the youth would bellow, “Are you ready to give an account?” And then waited for me to answer. When I ignored him, he yelled again, “Read on.”

At the beginning of the reading, the young man was still staring at me, but later, I found that he himself was tired of it and leaned his head on his crossed arms, as if dozing off. The two of them went out to eat in shifts, and I, on my empty stomach, had to stand and read over and over again. Hunger and exhaustion made my eyes dizzy and my throat so dry that I couldn’t even make a sound. But every time I finished reciting it once, the young man said, “Read it again!”

I was not allowed to return to my cell until dark every day, and although I could not calculate the exact time of day, I believe I had to read Mao’s essay over and over again for at least seven hours a day. No one kept food for me that day, so from the time I went to the interrogation room in the morning until I returned to my cell in the evening, I lived on plain water for the whole day. In order to get some nutrition, I had to take large amounts of cod liver oil and multivitamin pills.

This torture lasted for three days. It was only on the second and third days that I was allowed to return to my cell to eat before the afternoon dinner. The guards at the women’s prison had colluded with the young man to extend the period of indoor activities before going to bed at night. The guards were outside my cell, watching me, and not just circling the room during that hour of activity. After I went to bed, the night watchman came to my cell door several times and disturbed my sleep by loudly opening and closing the small window or kicking the door with her leather boots. I was awakened by her several times in the middle of the night, but on the whole, I spat well.

After three days of this torture, I was so weak that I almost fainted. I think the two youths knew very well in their hearts, for on the third day, towards evening, they both asked.

“Are you ready to explain?”

I opened my mouth, but my whole body was weak, and my throat was so dry and cracked that I could only make a few weak sounds.

“Speak clearly, are you prepared to give an account?” The well-dressed young man asked.

I struggled with all my strength and said, “Not guilty.”

“You must be shot.”

He walked furiously out of the interrogation room and slammed the door behind him. I sat in the chair and waited for the guards to come and take me back to my cell.

The young worker surveyed me with furrowed brows and suddenly said; “What are you turning your mind to? What do you intend to do?”

I was silent as one of the guards came in and took me out.

Several days passed, and no one came to summon me to the arraignment. I kept thinking over and over again about what had happened at the arraignment and how my encounter with the arraigners, including the well-dressed young man, had ended. I recalled over and over again what they asked and what I answered, wondering if I could have handled it better. Could there have been other means? I came to the conclusion that, although at times they seemed to want to know the truth about what had happened, in the final analysis, their ultimate goal in interrogating me was only to try to convict me. Their questions were merely an attempt to get some material from me that they could use to get at me. At the same time, they also used the opportunity of the interrogation to show their power to coerce me to surrender. But they felt that the interrogation did not seem to be able to break me, so the only way was to put pressure on me through physical abuse. In fact, I had no hope of being arraigned again.

The weather was getting warmer, and my health, too, was improving slightly. I washed my woolen sweaters and socks several times, dried them one by one, brushed the collars and sleeves of my cotton jacket, and prepared myself for a long stay in the detention center. I said to myself: “As long as I live and don’t die, there will always be a day to get out.” Lao Tzu said: “What goes around comes around. I must have some faith and hope. Every day I actively did exercises and recited poems. I often put “Mao Xuan” on my lap as if I was studying hard, but in fact, at this moment, my mind was filled with the poems of Li Bai and Du Fu.

In April 1969, two and a half years after my arrest, the long-awaited “Ninth Congress” of the Communist Party opened in Beijing. The newspapers reported that Lin Biao had given a report on political work at the Congress, praising the Cultural Revolution and emphasizing the need to carry out the class struggle to the end. Among the 1,500 delegates, most of them were his cronies in the air, land and sea ministries. In the newly formulated party constitution, Lin Biao was openly designated, as Mao’s successor. Lin Biao and Jiang Qing, in turn, dragged two hundred and seventy-nine of their colleagues into the new Central Committee. Many of the old and prominent Communist Party leaders were sidelined, except for a few, such as Premier Zhou Enlai and Foreign Minister Chen Yi, who retained their former positions. But as a whole, the power of those old revolutionaries had been greatly reduced and controlled. The photo in the newspaper shows Mao Zedong in the middle, with leftist leaders Lin Biao and Jiang Qing on the left and some old cadres led by the Premier on the right.

During the Ninth Congress, there were numerous newspaper reports every day boasting about the support of the masses for the Congress. In the detention center, prisoners were forced to listen to radio broadcasts and news reports from morning to night, including a long list of new members. Here, familiar names are no longer heard, but unfamiliar names are appearing in large numbers. This reflected the fact that a new team had been set up within the Communist Party leadership. On the day of Lin Biao’s political report, all prisoners were awakened from their sleep and ordered to get up and get dressed to listen to the broadcast.