Shanghai Life and Death(76)

As the car pulled into the suburb where the universities were concentrated and where the military planes were located, a parade of the Air Force came our way. At the end of the line was a parade of beautiful, slim girls in full military dress. They looked like female air force fighters from the movies, not like the real PLA. Later, after I went out and Lin Biao was publicly criticized, I learned something about these young women. They said that Lin Biao was going to make his twenty-five-year-old son, Lin Liguo, the deputy commander of the Chinese Air Force, when Lin Liguo had just graduated from a military academy founded for the children of senior cadres. Lin Biao’s henchmen then selected beautiful girls from all over the country and gave them to Lin Liguo in order to establish a “3,000 beautiful women” post, just like the emperor chose a concubine for his palace in ancient times. They lured these girls with the idea of serving in the Air Force, where they were guaranteed high honors and generous pay, and where their families were taken care of, so these young women were eager to join the army, not knowing that they were actually chosen for Lin Liguo’s pleasure. They were taken to Shanghai, where Lin Liguo had an elaborate secret residence, where the young women passed a so-called “physical examination” to be sorted into categories, and those who did not interest Lin Liguo were left in the Air Force to be assigned jobs, and these were the girls I saw in the parade.

The car turned into a compound surrounded by several red brick buildings. There was no sign at the gate indicating what kind of institution this was, nor was there a PLA on guard duty, only a man waiting there. After the car drove into the gate, he closed the door and then followed the car inside. The atmosphere inside was mysterious, and I looked around carefully, thinking that they seemed reluctant to let me know where they were being escorted to.

After driving through a neatly manicured lawn and a row of willow trees with young leaves, the car stopped in front of one of the buildings, where two able-bodied women in military uniforms with rebel armbands on their arms were waiting. One of them opened the door and the teacher jumped out first. I was about to get out when the two women pulled me down very roughly and then dragged me into the building with both hands on my arms, as if I was going to escape at any moment. We walked into a small room and they pushed me violently toward the corner of the room.

“Stand against the wall and don’t move!” One woman yelled.

Then I heard the two women sitting on their asses in chairs, and no one said anything. After what seemed like a long time, the door was opened, and then the sound of a man speaking, as if mentioning something about dinner, only to hear them discussing softly for a while, one of the women left the room, and when she came back, another person went out. I stood facing the wall from the beginning to the end.

After a long time in silence, with my feet alternately supporting the weight of my body, I took a hundred or so turns, when suddenly the door opened again and a man, in a reverent and mysterious tone, like a servant in the home of a high-ranking Chinese official speaking to his dignified master: “Coming! The meaning seemed to be who had arrived, and by the tone of his voice, it was as if the visitor was an extraordinary person.

I heard the two women bounce out of their chairs like lightning and take me by the arms, half-dragging, half-dragging me out of the building. We crossed an abandoned basketball court, followed a path lined with trees, and turned into another building. I was almost held in the air; the skin of the two women’s iron-clamp-like fingers had been scratched under my armpits.

I was getting more and more puzzled: what is this place? On the outside, it looked a bit like a university building, but the clean floor and manicured lawn showed that this was not an ordinary institution of higher education system. The people who came with me were walking just a few steps in front of me with a somewhat formal and careful expression. Although there was no sentry at the door, I was sure that this was either a government agency or a PLA agency. Chinese people occasionally walk through such places full of authority and gunpowder, and often have to be extra careful.

We walked into a conference room where about a hundred people were already gathered, sitting face to face in two groups, with a space between them and a podium across the wall, behind which some people in civilian clothes sat in a semi-circle. Those who came from the First Detention Center sat among them. On the wall were the usual slogans of the Cultural Revolution, written in white paint on red cloth, with the same kind of words that glorified the extreme leftists and cursed the utter bankruptcy of the party’s “capitalists”, and declared the “historical significance” of the “The Ninth Congress was a great victory for the development of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong’s thought. I saw the portrait of Lin Biao, Mao’s successor, hanging side by side with Mao’s portrait.

Every furnishing in the room was preachy and neat, which indicated that the building belonged to an economically generous and disciplined organization, which could only be a PLA unit. I coldly surveyed the clothing of those present, it seems to be more senior than the ordinary masses on the street. Many were wearing tweed or pure polyester tops and pants, unlike the ordinary Shanghai kind of meeting, which looked like a sea of blue.

The two women escorted me to the loudspeaker facing the podium, one of them snapped my head down, so I could only see a piece of the floor, the only thing I could see was the messy wires pulled out of the loudspeaker. I think one of the wires must be leading to the speaker, but where are those other numerous wires leading to? Were there people in other rooms participating in this struggle? And who were they? And why do they seem to be so mysterious? Did they not want to show their faces in front of me? After liberation, I had only a few acquaintances with a few state cadres, except for the household registration police in the lane and a young man who was in charge of the contact between the Shanghai Bureau of Industry and Commerce and foreign companies. On a few occasions I was invited to attend receptions for Shanghai envoys abroad, where I met a Shanghai vice mayor and some foreign affairs office cadres. Now that the Shanghai government has been smashed, they must have become targets of persecution as well. So the only understandable thing was that Lin Biao’s faction had taken over my special case, and those who listened to the broadcast of the struggle were serving PLA, and what they did not want me to see was perhaps not their faces, but their uniforms.

The whole audience was chanting slogans and waving little red books, cheering “Long live our great leader Chairman Mao” one at a time, followed by “Good health to Vice Chairman Lin! Health forever!” All this, in my opinion, not only reflects the steep increase in Lin Biao’s value after the Ninth Congress, but also proves that the organizers of this meeting were indeed undoubtedly Lin Biao’s cronies, aiming to create personal prominence for Lin Biao in a hurry.