Shanghai Life and Death(85)

chapter xi a form of torture

After the episode about my brother, the interrogators continued to question me about other relatives and friends, a process that took about seven months and lasted until the end of 1969. After that, I was no longer arraigned. I waited and waited, month after month. I said to the guards that I asked to see the interrogator.

“What do you want to say to him?” The guard asked.

“I want to ask when the problem will be solved for me.”

“He can’t solve the problem for you. He can only interrogate you and collect materials from you. As for the conclusion, the government will make it for you.”

“So when will the government come to a conclusion? I have been here for a long time, and I am not well. I need to see a doctor for treatment.” I said.

“You are doing well. We give you medicine and supply you with special meals.”

“I’m not well, my health is getting worse every day, I’ve had a few more bleeds recently, my gums hurt. And too many sulfonamide anti-inflammatory tablets are bad for the kidneys. You know, I only have one kidney left, and when I had the operation to remove it, the doctor warned me not to take too many sulfonamides.”

The guard pondered for a moment and said, “This is entirely of your own making. If you refuse to account for it, you’ll have to stay here.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong, so what do I have to explain? The interrogator has examined my entire life history, as well as my relationship with my relatives and friends, and by now the government should have a full understanding of me. How could I still be considered guilty?” My voice rose unconsciously out of indignation and hopelessness, but the guard just closed the small window, turned around and left.

After months of interrogation, I thought that I might be released after a full review of my life and political history, but now it still seemed difficult. Didn’t the guards say that the problem would be solved by the government? This reminds me, because there are still the usual working methods of government cadres. But I still can’t figure out, I don’t know which level of authority has to solve my problem, and why it has dragged on for so long. If I had not been too optimistic in the past, I would not have been so disappointed as I am now. My mind was plunged into a low and gloomy mood.

From 1969 to 1970, I suffered unimaginably, and the months of my life were unbearable. I wondered how I had survived in those cold, windy days, combined with my physical illness. One day I asked the guard to buy a bar of soap, but she gave me a bar of poor quality soap that did not lather. She told me that each person could only be given one bar of soap per month.

I was bleeding and often had to wash my underwear, so I asked the guard for more, and she got mad and yelled, “When are you going to change that bourgeois lifestyle? A piece of soap a month for you is already quite generous, there are some areas where residents are only given one piece per month per household.”

The coarse hand paper made of straw pulp also stopped supplying, replaced by the use of old newspapers, rags and ropes pulp made of thicker and stiffer hand paper, the hard as cardboard in a dull gray shoddy hand paper, you can still clearly find the original face of these old paper, rags, ropes. The substitute for this kind of handkerchief had to be supplied in monthly rations. The cod liver oil and vitamin pills that I had been approved to buy were often unavailable. The meat that was covered with rice could only be described as a small piece of meat and fat. The shortage and lack of supply seems to have affected even the guards themselves. Many people have lost weight, including the always energetic, strutting military guards, also look silent and thin. All this clearly shows that our country is once again suffering from economic bankruptcy, which is the inevitable result of every political movement. The newspapers published news of the peasants’ automatic demand for a reduction in their meager rations, and the rural party branches offered to pay more public food. This was the second famine and supply crunch since the failure of the Great Leap Forward in the early 1960s. In such difficult times, the newspapers also reported many stories about the efforts of some advanced people to increase production and to reduce their own consumption and demand for food and commodities. However, the Shanghai Liberation Daily still devoted about half of its daily pages to articles criticizing the “capitalists”, who were also called “revisionists”. At the time, these reports focused on Mao’s “military doctrine of people’s war” to refute the capitalist fallacy of emphasizing military skills and the role of weapons. The two military leaders who were knocked down and being criticized were former Defense Minister Peng Dehuai and former Public Security Minister Luo Ruiqing. They were targeted as key targets. Every day, articles published in the newspapers criticizing these two men were broadcast to us through the PA. They criticized these two military leaders for emphasizing that the main factor in winning the war was advanced weapons, not people armed with Mao Zedong Thought. Since these two men had been removed from their posts years earlier and handed over to the Red Guards and the rebels to persecute them, this continued criticism of them was simply an indication that other communist military leaders of the time held the same views as they did.

The constant torture and isolation from human interaction horribly eroded my ability to think. The isolation censorship made me feel deeply demoralized. The lack of soap and hand towels made it impossible for me to keep my body clean, and this made me dull and unmotivated. Even the disagreements and even sharp arguments in the newspapers about the different views of the Communist Party and the military leadership no longer stimulated me. Every day I sat on a plank bed, leaning on a rolled-up bunk, drowsy all day, feeling so tired that I was too sick to move.

By early spring, I was again admitted to the prison hospital with pneumonia. I recovered very slowly that time, and when I returned to the detention center, it was already the first of May. The weather had turned warm. Although the living conditions had become more difficult, the warmer weather made me feel better. I felt that I had once again survived a life-and-death struggle to get out of the clutches of death. One day, the wind and sunshine, I was allowed to go out to let the wind, found the wall of the French sycamore, has been covered with a layer of new green leaves. I thanked God for the miracle of life.