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Monday, November 22, 2010

Team Canada female athletes disqualified from Commonwealth silver medal, jailed Chinese democracy activist awarded with Nobel peace prize, and others in between (Part 2) – when violence is politically organized

(Continued from Part 1)

In 2006 when The Globe and Mail Journalist Jan Wong made the allegation that Marc Lepine, Valery Fabrikant and Kimveer Gill, the killers in the three mass shootings on Montreal university and college campuses since 1989, were victims of marginalization of immigrant minorities “in a society that valued pure laine” (pure laine refers to a person from an established French family), and caused a firestorm of condemnations including from the Canadian Parliament, Wong also made a trip to Beijing, China, where she had once served as the newspaper’s bureau chief, from 1988 to 1994.

In this 2006 China trip Jan Wong finally decided to look for an old Chinese acquaintance she had betrayed back in 1973 when – after she had gone to China as a 19-year-old “starry-eyed Maoist” in 1972 and become one of only two Beijing University foreign students – she informed the Chinese authority about a female student who sought her help to go to the United States. Only in 2006 did Wong realize that the girl was then sent to the countryside to do hard labor and suffered, and that during that difficult time of the Chinese Cultural Revolution most of the girl’s friends also had to denounce her; but Wong also felt relieved to see that the women was now doing quite prosperously. (Jan Wong, Beijing Confidential: A Tale of Comrades Lost and Found, 2007, Random House, Inc.; The one who didn’t get away”, by Brian Bethune, October 31, 2007, Maclean’s; and, “Lunch table turns on Wong”, November 13, 2007, Richmond News.)

1972 had been an historic year when Jan Wong first went to China, if one gives it a little more thought.

On February 21, 1972, Richard Nixon made a historic visit to China – the first by any U.S. President – and opened official dialogues between the two countries which had become staunch enemies after 1949 when the Communists triumphed in China. In his week-long visit Nixon met Chairman Mao Zedong and held extensive talks with Premier Zhou Enlai.(“Events in Presidential History: President Richard Nixon Arrives in China -- February 21, 1972”, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia; and, “Record of Historic Richard Nixon-Zhou Enlai Talks in February 1972 Now Declassified”, The National Security Archive, The George Washington University.)

Then on May 22, 1972, Richard Nixon arrived in Moscow as the first U.S. President to visit the Soviet Union though it was the second visit for him – after one as Dwight Eisenhower’s Vice President in July-August 1959 during which he had the famous “kitchen debate” with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The 1972 visit launched a period of genuine détente between the two superpowers, and included the signing of the first permanent nuclear arms reduction treaty SALT I. (“On This Day, July 24, 1959: Khrushchev and Nixon have war of words”, BBC News; “Joint Communiqué, Moscow, 1972”, The Washington Post; and, Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and confrontation: American-Soviet relations from Nixon to Reagan, 1994, Brookings Institution Press.)

Later in September 1972, the aptly named “Summit Series” of men’s ice hockey games between the Soviet Union national team and the Canadian national team were held and won by Canada. These 1972 Summit Series were the first between the two hockey superpowers, and have become so famous that the jersey worn by Canadian player Paul Henderson when he scored the winning goal has recently fetched an incredible $1 million US in an auction – the highest price ever paid for a hockey item. (“Summit Series”, Wikipedia; “Summit Series hero Paul Henderson battling leukemia”, February 20, 2010, Toronto Star; and, “Henderson's $1.2 million Summit Series jersey to tour Canada”, by Sean Leahy, September 28, 2010, Yahoo! Sports.)

Shortly afterwards in October 1972, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, a French Montrealer who had swept to majority power in 1968 in the mist of “Trudeaumania” and personal show of defiance against violent threats from Quebec separatists after ascending to the helm of the Liberal party, nearly lost an election amid “Trudeauphobia”, forming only a minority government propped up by the New Democratic party farther to the left. During his first term Trudeau had in 1969 shepherded in the Official Languages Act to establish French alongside English as Canada’s official languages, and in 1970 invoked the War Measures Act during the so-called October Crisis to handle the Montreal kidnappings of British diplomat James Cross and Quebec Cabinet minister Pierre Laporte by the leftwing separatist Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ). (“Pierre Elliot Trudeau & the demise of liberal Canadian nationalism”, by Keith Jones, October 10, 2000, World Socialist Web Site; “Pierre Trudeau: Captivating a Nation”, October 2000, CBC Learning; “First Among Equals: The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1919-2000”, updated January 29, 2002, Library and Archives Canada; and, “Did Team Canada Save Pierre Elliot Trudeau?”, by Joe Pelletier,

It was amid the atmosphere of historic East-West political thawing that Jan Wong travelled from Montreal to Beijing in 1972 – except that Montreal didn’t share that kind of warming and Jan Wong went to China to join the Cultural Revolution as a self-styled “Montreal Maoist”.

Montreal had been ‘red hot’ – the kidnappers of James Cross and Pierre Laporte had trained with Palestinian militants, Laporte was killed one day after the War Measures Act was invoked, and the kidnappers received safe passage to Cuba in exchange for releasing Cross. Jan Wong showed that she was no less so when the year after in 1973 – the year of the first Canadian Prime Ministerial visit to China by Pierre Trudeau who had been there twice prior to entering politics – Wong voluntarily reported to the Chinese Communist authority the student friend who had confided in her the wish to go to the United States. (J. L. Granatstein and Robert Bothwell, Pirouette: Pierre Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Policy, 1991, University of Toronto Press; Jan Wong, Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, 1997, Random House, Inc.; and, “Great Canadian Debates: The War Measures Act”, updated September 24, 2002, Centre for Canadian Studies, Mount Allison University.)

In fact, it wasn’t only Jan Wong and whoever her comrades but Canada’s main Maoist political party were based in Montreal. (Robert Jackson Alexander, Maoism in the Developed World, 2001, Greenwood Publishing Group.)

And it wasn’t until 33 years later in 2006, the same year she turned against the Quebec society’s “pure laine” attitude toward immigrant minorities, that Jan Wong bothered to find out what happened to, and reconcile with, the Chinese woman who and whose wish to go the United States she had betrayed in 1973.

Or as Jan Wong herself characterizes it – about the political significance of her rare 1972 invitation from the Chinese government for study at Beijing University (Jan Wong, Beijing Confidential: A Tale of Comrades Lost and Found, 2007, Random House, Inc.):

“When I arrived in China, I confused everyone, including myself. I was a Montreal Maoist who looked Chinese but couldn’t speak Chinese. …

… Looking back on the mystery of it call, I believe I was accepted at Beijing University because I was in the right place at the right time. After six years of Cult Rev xenophobia, Beijing was trying to thaw relations with the West. In 1971, it had invited the U.S. table-tennis team to Beijing. In 1972, I was the logical next step, the first Canadian to study there since the Cultural Revolution.”

I see! As a logical step of the time the Chinese government made sure to invite a “Montreal Maoist” before opening more widely to the outside world, and 16 years later in 1988 – it happened to be the year I came to Canada – The Globe and Mail, which had long considered itself “Canada’s National Newspaper” (“The Globe and Mail History”, 2010, Globe Media), chose this “Montreal Maoist” to represent Canadian journalism to the Chinese people – as its 13th Beijing correspondent.

I can already imagine hearing the whisper – but how could The Globe and Mail have had anyone better when Jan Wong’s prerogative as the first Canadian to be a Beijing University student during the Cultural Revolution meant she got some of Chairman Mao’s geishas among her classmate friends? (Jan Wong, Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, 1997, Random House, Inc.)

But then when Jan Wong lamented about the French Quebec society’s “pure laine” attitude having to do with ethnic immigrant minority resentment, The Globe and Mail made a 180-degree turn and gagged her – as discussed in Part 1 of this blog article.

Seeing this kind of journalistic calculation representing Canada by Jan Wong, one gets the idea that no Canadian story involving someone of Chinese heritage or origin is newsworthy until it can be for Chinese consumption.

And so from my personal angle, an in-depth discussion I would like to have about politically motivated violence – particularly violence at institutions of higher learning – would have to begin with Chinese stories I witnessed as a child in China during the Cultural Revolution.

My ten years of elementary and secondary education coincided with the duration of the Cultural Revolution, 1966 – 1976. Our class’s experiences were quite unlike those of another age group in recent Chinese history: schooling was interrupted several times in the first few years due to Cultural Revolution activities or school-safety concerns; most of the school curricula were watered down and filled with politically correct contents; regular political indoctrination sessions must be attended several times a week to study teachings of Chairman Mao and policies of the Communist party, where everyone was required to express gratitude and loyal support as well as conduct self criticism confessing one’s own mistakes or shortcomings; in addition, regular periods of labor work in the factory and the farm field were mandatory and became more demanding during secondary schooling.

But already things were less tumultuous for us than for the older folks. Many of our older siblings or cousins became or had to become members of the Red Guards, who carried out organized anti-status quo activities, some violent, and our parents were likely targets of such activities, or at least endured a difficult time to avoid being targets and adjust to a physically and socially harder life demanded by the political correctness.

Right from the start, my schooling didn’t actually begin until early 1967.

My family – me, my parents, maternal grandparents and younger sister – had been living in a dorm-apartment allocated to my mother by the education bureau of the southern Haizhu District (海珠区) in the city of Guangzhou, where she was a middle school teacher. The elementary school entrance age was seven at the time, and at age six in 1965 I applied to a new school which I recall was named Haizhu District Experimental School, that was experimenting with admitting younger children, but I was quickly turned down after an interview.

I am not sure what this school is today, definitely not Haizhu District Experimental Elementary School (广州市海珠区实验小学) founded in 1988 – the year I came to Canada – but possibly Haizhu Zhentai Experimental Elementary School (海珠镇泰实验小学) founded in 1963, which is located near the right location at Nanhua East Road (南华东路) near Tongqing Road (同庆路).

When the Cultural Revolution began in the early summer of 1966, my mother was roughed up by her middle school’s student Red Guards, who came to our place ransacking and confiscating anything of hers that looked valuable, had her hair cut very short forcibly like her head had been shaved, and required her to attend daily regiment of critical self-reevaluation. In an age group with the combination of youthful restlessness, physically strength and enthusiasms for social experimentation, the middle-school student Red Guards were especially known for their nastiness and propensity for violence – with their teachers who unfortunately also had the role of behavioral counseling bearing the brunt of it during the early months of the revolution.

In the fall of 1966 my father, then a junior faculty member at Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) University, arranged for the family to move to the university campus, where the anarchy and violence were not as bad as in the middle school environment and were more targeted at officials and senior professors due to the intellectual focus of higher education.

Me and Grandma were the exceptions at the time of moving – we had left for my first sojourn to the city of Shantou (Swatow), part of Grandma’s hometown she and Grandpa had not been back to since moving to Guangzhou in 1959 around the time of my birth, and didn’t return to Guangzhou until around the New Year of 1967 for my spring semester. (My Chinese blog-post series discussing personal experiences in the context of political events, "忆往昔,学历史智慧" (“Reminiscing the past, learning history’s wisdom"), has so far focused on the very earlier years to around age 5.)

Both Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) University and its campus were of reputations of prestige in Guangzhou (historically known as Canton), capital of Guangdong province: the university was founded in the 1920s as the national university for the province by the then Canton-based national government of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan), father of the Chinese Republican Revolution, and after Sun’s death was renamed in his honor; then in the early 1950s the new Communist government of Mao Zedong had Zhongshan University take over the private Lingnan University, a Christian school, and move to Lingnan’s sprawling, Western-style campus. (“Sun Yat-sen University”, Wikipedia.)

There was another interesting yet often overlooked historical context about this merger of universities, which was only a part of the new Chinese government’s nationwide comprehensive revamp of higher education: Lingnan University had been founded in the 1880s as the Christian College in China by the American Presbyterian Church, but was separated from the mother church and became governed by a New York-based board of regents in the year 1893 amid anti-foreign sentiments in China – the year Chairman Mao was born. (“Lingnan University: History and Development”, Lingnan University; “Guide to the Archives of the Trustees of Lingnan University”, Yale University Library; and, “Mao Zedong (1893-1976): Major Events in the Life of a Revolutionary Leader”. Expanding East Asian Studies, Columbia University.)

So unlike most of my new elementary classmates in 1967, I had not been born and raised on the Zhong Da (short for ZhongShan DaXue, i.e., Zhongshan University) campus of a wealth of history, and only one of my parents, i.e., my father, worked at ZD. But there was another family context that was not apparent at the time: my mother’s family had a long Christian history that had included Grandma’s paternal grandfather as one of the first-ever Chinese doctors of Western medicine in eastern Guangdong province – at the Swatow Mission Hospital founded in the 1860s by the English Presbyterian Mission. (My first blog article, "Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late", January 2009; and, my blog post on the history of Christianity in China, “Bangkok to Kwangtung, and back to America (Part 1) – Opening China to Christianity”, February 2010.)

As well, outside of the ZD campus I had been born and delivered in a Guangzhou hospital founded by the American Presbyterian Mission on December 12, 1899 as the affiliated medical clinic of the first women’s medical school in China. (My Chinese blog post, "忆往昔,学历史智慧" (“Reminiscing the past, learning history’s wisdom"), February 2010.)

Being new on ZD campus – except for one prior short stay at my father’s faculty dorm room beginning on the day the middle school Red Guards ransacked my mother’s dorm-apartment – I naturally did not know as much about what went on as my classmates at the university‘s affiliated elementary school also in Haizhu District, which was appropriately renamed “July1 Elementary School” in honor of the Chinese Communist Party’s birthday.

Interestingly, 20 years after leaving the July 1 Elementary School in 1972, I became a Canadian citizen on July 1, Canada Day, 1992.

For example, in early 1967 I had little awareness that as Grandma and I came to the family’s new dwelling on ZD campus (the basement of a house and then the first floor by the time Grandma and I arrived) and the new semester began, Zhao Ziyang, then Guangdong province’s Communist party leader, was also taken to Zhongshan University – on January 21 – for a short period of detention. Under pressure from the university student Red Guards, on January 22 Zhao agreed to a transfer of provincial party and government powers to a province-wide “Alliance” of Red Guard organizations, including handover of the official seals. (David L. Shambaugh, The making of a premier: Zhao Ziyang's Provincial Career, 1984, Westview Press, Chinese version, 趙紫陽崛起與陷落, translated by Xu Zerong (徐澤榮); and, Wei Zhao and Shibin Chen, The biography of Zhao Ziyang, 1989, Educational and Cultural Press.)

It was a type of power transfer from the Communist party to the Red Guards where the Red Guards would not manage power but act as monitors. On the next day, January 23, an official announcement was issued for this power arrangement by the provincial party organ under Zhao Ziyang to all Communist party members in Guangdong province.

This Guangdong approach to power transfer received immediate positive response from Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing, who was opposed to the full power takeover by Red Guards taking place in Shanghai. (“一月夺权”, by 叶曙明, December 4, 2005, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (

At the time Liu Shaoqi, President of China and Deng Xiaoping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party had been branded “Capitalist Roaders” in 1966 and were in the process of being eliminated from the national leadership; there were tremendous pressures to do the same, from the revolutionary followers of Chairman Mao Zedong of the Communist Party, to the official powers at the provincial and regional levels.

Unfortunately for Zhao Ziyang in Guangdong, Chairman Mao wanted a third type of power transfer to the Red Guards, one that would soon take place in Heilongjiang province in the northeast bordering the Soviet Union – a full power takeover with a key role for the military (and a role for some politically correct officials). In the evening of January 21 when Zhao Ziyang was taken to Zhongshan University, a next-day editorial in People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, was being broadcast calling for full power takeover by the revolution, and on January 23, the day Zhao Ziyang officially announced the Guangdong power transfer to under Red Guard monitoring, the Communist Party central issued a decision to use the military to support full power takeover in the provinces and regions. (“文革中所谓的“上海一月革命”──毛泽东制造的一个“文革样板””, by 何蜀, 2001, Modern China Studies; and, “对“文化大革命”中“三结合”的述评”, 历史专题, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.)

Political differences with the local military and internal splits among the Guangdong Red Guards soon led to a March 1967 full military takeover – not Red Guard takeover – of Guangdong provincial powers by the Guangzhou Military Region, which was the military command center for several southern provinces and was loyal to their former boss, then Defense Minister Lin Biao, who had in 1966 become the sole Vice Chairman of the Communist Party and was effectively the henchman-leader of the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao. Zhao Ziyang lost his provincial leader job and was also branded a “Capitalist Roader”. (“赵紫阳”and “林彪”, Wikipedia; Ezra F. Vogel, One Step Ahead in China: Guangdong Under Reform, 1990, Harvard University Press; and, “广州的夺权模式被中央否定”, by 叶曙明, December 8, 2005, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (

In this short-lived Guangdong political power experiment that began on January 21-23, 1967 at Sun Yat-sen University, was the same Zhao Ziyang who in the early 1980s became the Chinese Premier – several years after the 1976 deaths of Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai and the end of Cultural Revolution (Lin Biao had died in a 1971 plane crash in Mongolia trying to flee to the Soviet Union after a failed coup attempt against Mao). (“Zhao Ziyang”, Wikipedia; and, “Review: Mao's Last Revolution”, by Judith Shapiro, October 6, 2006, The New York Times.)

By the late 1980s Zhao was the reform-minded General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party – the official top leader as there was no longer the position of Chairman – and his ascent coincided with rapid growths of the Chinese democracy movement and related mass protests driven to a large extent by intellectuals and university students.

In May 1989 Zhao Ziyang attempted to show empathy for the university students of the democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, expressing the view that their intentions were good and the situation was not a major problem, even after the movement was branded “a planned conspiracy and a turmoil” by an April 26 editorial of People’s Daily. In mid-May Zhao had serious clashes in Politburo Standing Committee meetings with the majority of the party’s top collective leadership who took a hardline against the “turmoil”. (Suzanne Ogden, China’s Search for Democracy: The Student and the Mass Movement of 1989, 1992, M.E. Sharpe; and, “中国共产党大事记(1989年)”, Xinhua News (新华网).)

Mikhail Gorbachev, then the reform-minded leader of the Soviet Union, was visiting Beijing during May 15-18, and was told by Zhao that despite Zhao himself being the official party leader all important decisions had to be referred to the behind-the-scenes paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who had survived the Cultural Revolution downfall and reemerged as the final arbiter of power in China. (Gordon White, The Chinese State in the Era of Economic Reform: The Road to Crisis, 1991, M.E. Sharpe.)

In the early morning of May 19, 1989, Zhao went to Tiananmen Square to try to persuade the students to end a hunger strike, having just attending a top-level meeting which decided, against his opposition, to use the military to suppress the mass protests. Here are some of what Zhao said to the students (“Zhao Ziyang’s Tiananmen Square Speech”, By Dan-Chyi Chua, February 4, 2009, asia! Magazine):

“Students, we came too late. Sorry, students. Whatever you say and criticise about us is deserved. My purpose here now is not to ask for your forgiveness. I want to say that now, your bodies are very weak. You have been on a hunger strike for six days, and it’s now the seventh day. You cannot go on like this. … I feel, our channel for dialogue is open, and some problems need to be resolved through a process. You cannot continue to – after seven days of hunger strike – insist on stopping only when you have a satisfactory answer.

You are still young and have much time ahead of you. You should live healthily to see the day that the Four Modernisations (as proposed by China’s first premier Zhou Enlai in 1975 in the areas of agriculture, technology, industry and defence) of China are realised. You are not like us, we are already old, and do not matter. It was not easy for the country and your parents to nurture you to reach university. Now in your late teens and early twenties, you are sacrificing your lives! Students, can you think rationally for a moment? … You mean well, and have the interests of our country at heart, but if this goes on, it will go out of control and will have various adverse effects.


Later that day army troops began to arrive in Beijing, and the next day accompanied by the hardline President Yang Shangkun, Premier Li Peng declared martial law for Beijing.

On June 4 – exactly half a month (16 days) after Zhao Ziyang’s appearance on Tiananmen Square to show his empathy to the students – the military used force to clear the protests on the streets of Beijing and on Tiananmen Square.

Estimates for the number of deaths in the June 4 military crackdown range from fewer than 200 confirmed to many thousands. (“Tiananmen Square protests of 1989”, Wikipedia; and, “Tiananmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History”, The National Security Archive, The George Washington University.)

By then Zhao Ziyang was already under house arrest that would last the rest of his life, while Yang Shangkun – a longtime colleague of Deng Xiaoping – and his younger brother Yang Baibing, who had been put in charge of personnel arrangement and political indoctrination in the military, now played high-profile roles for the suppression and military disciplines. (Michel Oksenberg, Lawrence R. Sullivan, Marc Lambert and Qiao Li, Beijing Spring, 1989: Confrontation and Conflict: The Basic Documents, 1990, M.E. Sharpe; Richard Baum, Burying Mao: Chinese politics in the age of Deng Xiaoping, 1994, Princeton University Press; “A Retrospective on the Study of Chinese Civil-Military Relations Since 1979: What Have We Learned? Where Do We Go?”, by Thomas J. Bickford, in James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N.D. Yang, Ed., Seeking Truth From Facts: A Retrospective on Chinese Military Studies in the Post-Mao Era, 2001, RAND Corporation; “The Prisoner of Conscience: Zhao Ziyang, 1919-2005”, by Matthew Forney and Susan Jakes, January 16, 2005, Time Magazine; and, “The secret journal of Zhao Ziyang: Chinese whispers”, May 21, 2009, The Economist.)

It’s ironic that in the 22 years from the spring of 1967 in Guangzhou to the spring of 1989 in Beijing, the table had turned between Zhao Ziyang and university student protesters yet the end remained the same for both.

At a level below the provincial power struggles, in 1966-67 at Zhongshan University (as at other educational institutions) most officials and senior faculty members were targets of the Cultural Revolution and suffered a great deal, some were beaten severely, some died of related health problems, and some committed suicide.

Being newer on ZD campus I was not as familiar with the places, didn’t go as far and most likely did not see as much of the tough things as the other kids. But I attended school and what I saw or learned in that process I couldn’t avoid.

A report had it that senior history professors were hung at trees and lynched near the south entrance to the ZD campus (Ezra F. Vogel, One Step Ahead in China: Guangdong Under Reform, 1990, Harvard University Press). I am not sure what the facts were, but that a big tree on a small hill beside the main road inside the south entrance was dubbed the “neck-hanging tree” by the kids for the reason that a known faculty member had been hung there.

The father of “Ping”, one of the girls in our class, an associate professor of Physics more senior than most of the parents of our class, had been branded a “rightist” in the 1957 anti-rightist political campaign (“'Rightist' Wrongs”, June 26, 2007, by Jerome A. Cohen, The Wall Street Journal) and was now subjected to further political condemnation and cruel treatment. He leaped to his death from on top a campus building.

Then there was the time when for several days something was floating in a pond on my way to and near the elementary school, that looked like a dead pig and had horrendously stenchful smell. It turned out to be, upon closer inspection by the more curious, the swollen belly of a man dead in the water for days before emerging.

I sort of remember that it was a lecturer in the History department who couldn’t stand the cruel treatment suffered in the political sessions held to denounce the wrong views he had expressed and committed suicide. But recently the older brother of my old classmate buddy “Ling” tells me that it was a certain Communist party official in the department of Chinese Literature.

The recent info about this dead man’s identity comes as somewhat shocking to me because my father, a lecturer in the Philosophy department during the Cultural Revolution, and my mother were both graduates of the Chinese Literature department; also, many years later around the New Millennium my parents moved into one of the apartment buildings built later overlooking that pond, where my mother still lives but my father died in 2005. (My blog article on Canadian politics has mentioned some circumstances at the time of my father’s passing in August 2005, "The myth of political vendetta in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Airbus Affair investigation, the politics of Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien, and some social undercurrents in Canada", February 2009 –.)

The types of violence that occurred in the early years of the Cultural Revolution targeting persons in positions of power or intellectual seniority, in some sense were not unlike the FLQ kidnappings of James Cross and Pierre Laporte in Montreal in 1970, which had inspirations from international political radicalism.

A major difference between the FLQ violence in Canada and the violence during the Chinese Cultural Revolution was that part of the Chinese leadership sanctioned the Red Guards’ violent anti-status quo actions.

Another type of violence raging during an early period of the Cultural Revolution was militant fighting, or violent battles, between different Red Guard organizations. In the spring of 1967 the various Red Guard organizations in Guangdong province quickly fell into two camps: the more radical “Red Flag” which had played a key role in the January power transfer from Zhao Ziyang, and the more pro-government “East Wind” which were more sympathetic to the subsequent military takeover and its law-and-order stability.

In Guangzhou, most of the city and most of the nearby countryside were controlled by the East Winders, in particular most of the Red Guard organizations in the factories and farm villages were part of the East Wind alliance, while the universities and some of the middle schools were dominated by the Red Flaggers, with Zhongshan University’s organization, the Red Flag Commune, as their center (and possibly the origin of their nick name).

In fact, on January 21-23, 1967 it was under detention by the Zhongshan University Red Flag Commune and their affiliated vanguard group, “August 31”, that Zhao Ziyang acceded to transfer of provincial power to under Red Guard monitoring, and the ZD Red Flag Commune became one of the official monitors of provincial power. Then on January 24 a top “August 31” leader, Mathematics student Huang Yijian (黄意坚), received a phone call from Premier Zhou Enlai and encouragements from Zhou for the Red Guards to be united and to keep good relations with the military. (“一月夺权”, by 叶曙明, December 4, 2005, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (

But events did not follow Zhou Enlai’s wishes and the military took over full power in March in Guangdong. On April 14, accompanied by General Huang Yongsheng, Commander of the Guangzhou Military Region, Premier Zhou flew to Guangzhou from Beijing to meet with the leaders of the severely split Red Guards organizations, many members of which were also under military detention, to personally see that their activities would not turn violent and that the Spring 1967 Canton Fair due to open the next day on April 15 could go forward smoothly. (Lawrence C. Reardon, The reluctant Dragon: Crisis Cycles in Chinese Foreign Economic Policy, 2002, University of Washington Press; “周恩来亲赴广州”, by 叶曙明, January 2, 2006, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (; and, “1967年广交会亲历者揭秘:周恩来说服造反派”, October 30, 2006, Yangcheng Evening News (羊城晚报, courtesy of

The Canton Fair was very important for the Chinese economy and foreign relations as it was Chinese’s only export trade fair – held biannually in Guangzhou – during the first three decades of the Communist era, 1950s – 1970s. (My blog articles, Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late”, January 2009, and, ““Nairobi to Shenzhen”, and on to Guangzhou”, November and December 2009.)

In the evening of April 14, 1967, Zhou Enlai attended and spoke at a rally of Red Guards totaling over 10,000 strong, held simultaneously at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall located in the city center and at the indoor City Sports Center, calling on the Red Guards to be united and help ensure a successful Spring Canton Fair. After midnight Zhou toured the about-to-open Canton Fair exhibition halls, and succeeded in persuading the Red Guards to let open some exhibits sealed off because of their accused political incorrectness – that had especially been the case with many of the traditional Chinese artisan crafts.

Zhou Enlai ended up spending 5 days in Guangzhou at Chairman Mao’s request, meeting Red Guard representatives everyday and encouraging the Red Guards to be more open in their revolution and learn from past mistakes of not being so – the military and aligned East Wind Red Guards had accused the January 21-23 provincial power transfer as having been conducted in relative secrecy – but not to be violent, informing them the March military takeover had been Chairman Mao’s decision.

Sadly, it had been in early February 1967 while working devotedly on the power transfer/takeover issues when Zhou Enlai was for the first time diagnosed with a heart problem, and it was then during these five grueling April days in Guangzhou in which he had no sleep for a period of 84 hours that Zhou’s heart problem worsened, to the point that from then on he would require daily oxygen aid and oral medications four times a day. Later in 1970 Zhou Enlai said to the famed American journalist Edgar Snow, “Cultural Revolution has defeated me when it comes to my health”; but then shortly after Richard Nixon’s historic visit, in May 1972 Zhou was also diagnosed with bladder cancer, which would in the end destroy him. (“周恩来晚年五次大手术:我还有61斤 请主席放心”, June 4, 2009, China News (中国新闻网); or, “周恩来晚年五次大手术 自称身体被文化大革命打败”, June 5, 2009,

And unfortunately, past the Spring Canton Fair the conflicts between the Red Flaggers and the East Winders and between the Red Flaggers and the military continued to worsen. A “May 3” hunger strike was staged in front of the Guangzhou Uprising Martyrs Cemetery Park by about 2,000 Red Flaggers demanding the release of one of their leaders in military detention, and it ended only after Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing ordered the release on May 6. (刘国凯, 广州红旗派的兴亡 (上), 2006, 博大出版社 (courtesy of 地方文革史交流网).)

On July 21 and July 23 – exactly half a year (6 months) after the January 21-23 Communist party-to-Red Guards power transfer by then provincial party leader Zhao Ziyang and with Guangdong under military rule since March – the first major deadly Red Guard militant battles took place in Guangzhou between the Red Flaggers and the East Winders, with the July 23 incident at none other than the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the nearby outdoor City Sports Stadium.

The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, built 1929-31, was designed by the Cornell University educated Chinese architect Lu Yanzhi, who had been born in the year 1894 when Sun Yat-sen began his revolutionary work. Lu had designed Sun Yat-sen’s Tomb and Mausoleum built 1926-29 in Nanjing, and in Guangzhou also designed the nearby Sun Yat-sen Monument, before his premature death at a tender age of 35 in 1929 – the year the Tomb and Mausoleum were completed and construction began for the Monument and the Memorial Hall. (“National Park of China-Dr.Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum”, Zhongshan Mountain National Park; “中山纪念堂”, June 13, 2005, Guangzhou Municipal Government; “Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Memorial Hall”, March 20, 2006, Life of Guangzhou; and, “孙中山纪念碑”, Guangzhou Yuexiu Park.)

Located on the site of the former Presidential Palace of which Dr. Sun Yat-sen had been the occupant before it was destroyed in civil warfare, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is a grand architectural marvel combining Byzantine architecture and Chinese imperial designs with the spirits of Sun Yat-sen’s egalitarianism and people orientation. It is the most important symbolic structure in Guangzhou and one that gets compared to the Forbidden City and the Great Hall of the People at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. (“中山纪念堂 天下为公,终将万古长存”, November 22, 2002, Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报, courtesy of Guangzhou Library website, July 2, 2009).)

Dr. Sun Yat-sen is dear to the hearts of the people of Guangzhou. He was born in a village only 60 miles south and spoke Cantonese, and the southern national government he founded in Guangzhou in 1917 (after the government in Beijing betrayed the 1911 Republican Revolution and reverted to monarchy for short periods of time and the nation became fractured) has been the only national government of China ever located in this city. Several short years after his 1925 death at the age of 58 due to liver cancer, the southern government inheriting his heritage triumphed in military campaigns over the Beijing-based northern government, and the capital was moved back to Nanjing – the Yangtze River city with a history as national capital dating back to Ming dynasty’s founding in the 14th century – where the Republic of China had been proclaimed by Dr. Sun and where he now would be entombed, although at the time the Communists looked upon Wuhan – also on the Yangtze River – where the 1911 Revolution had begun, as the capital. (“Sun Yat-sen”, Wikipedia; “孙中山”, Wikipedia; “國父孫中山先生”, Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan); “History of the Republic of China”, Wikipedia; and, my blog post, “Bangkok to Kwangtung, and back to America (Part 1) – Opening China to Christianity”, February 2010.)

Prior to the Cultural Revolution, the only violent conflict that had befallen the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou was during the Japanese invasion of China that subsequently became part of the Second World War, when on June 7 and 8, 1938 Japanese aerial bombing inflicted damages to some external structures but not to the Hall’s main structure. Eventually it was also in this Hall on September 16, 1945 that the Japanese army in Guangdong formally surrendered to the allied forces. (“历史事件”, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Memorial Hall; and, “从革命烽烟中走来的羊城”, November 15, 2010, Beijing Evening News (北京晚报).)

(During one of his frequent visits to Guangzhou in the 1950s when he was also President of China) Chairman Mao Zedong toured the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall on January 24, 1958, met with representatives of the local people and praised the Hall, “This is a great building designed and constructed by the Chinese ourselves, who says the Chinese are not good?”. (“历史事件”, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Memorial Hall; “百年南武知名校友录”, by 林辉煌, 广州市南武中学; “中山纪念堂”, June 13, 2005, Guangzhou Municipal Government; “中山纪念堂 葱茏静地缅先驱”, November 10, 2010, Yangcheng Evening News (羊城晚报).)

Nonetheless, a little over three months after Premier Zhou Enlai’s speeches at a rally of over 10,000 Red Guard representatives in Guangzhou with around 5,000 of them at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (its seating capacity near the original design), a Red Guard militant battle took place around the Hall on July 23, 1967, pitching East Winders against Red Flaggers involving well over 10,000, possibly many more, of them.

It all began on July 19 when the East Winders and the Red Flaggers had a dispute at the Guangzhou Overseas Chinese Sugar Refinery over posting of political banners, when a child was hurt. The next evening, over 1,000 Red Guards carrying spears, hoes, carrying-poles, etc., fought at the sugar refinery, and the refinery’s director became the first casualty of militant fighting in Guangzhou: he was being condemned in a workers’ rally and Red Guards from outside of the refinery came in with wooden bats and clobbered him over the head. What happened the day after was known as the “July 21 Incident”, when the two sides waged an all out battle around the sugar refinery, ending with the Red Flaggers’ announcement that 7 more people, all their comrades, were killed including some in a truck attacked and overturned down a hill. (“广州武斗第一次出现死人”, by 叶曙明, February 23, 2006, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (; and, “广州地区文革期间主要武装冲突事件”, by 区国樑, August 2010, 地方文革史交流网.)

It so happened that on July 22, the day after the “July 21 Incident”, a call was made in Beijing by Jiang Qing, Chairman Mao’s wife and one of the leaders of the Cultural Revolution, for the Red Guards not to put down their weapons when it came to defending themselves. Jiang Qing stated that the Red Guard slogan, “文攻武卫”(attack with intellectualism and defend with militancy) was politically correct, and her words were reported by the press on the next day, i.e., the day the militant battle took place at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou. (“1967年7月22日 “文攻武卫”口号出笼”, News of the Communist Party of China (中国共产党新闻).)

Two major mass events had been scheduled for July 23. One was a rally by the “Mao Zedong-ist Red Guards”, the most hardline East Wind organization made up mostly of youths from the families of politically correct officials and military officers, to celebrate the organization’s official establishment in Guangzhou, and the other was the memorial service by the Red Flaggers for their seven comrades killed at the sugar refinery. The Maoists’ rally had been planned at a meeting hall within the Guangzhou Military Region headquarters’ compound and the Red Flaggers’ at a sports field, when the city’s military control commission reassigned the Maoists to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the Red Flaggers to the nearby outdoor Yuexiu Sports Stadium – both adjacent to the Yuexiu Park where the Sun Yat-sen Monument was located. (“浴血中山纪念堂”, by 叶曙明, March 6, 2006, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (

It may have been coincidental but the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was in fact located at East Wind Road Center, or East Wind Middle Road – its present-day address is 259 East Wind Middle Road. However the title “Mao Zedong-ist” or “Mao Zedong-ism” (毛泽东主义) was never sanctioned by Mao himself. For instance, in his first review of Tiananmen Square Red Guard rally on August 18, 1966, Mao had accepted to wear a “Red Guard” armband presented by a young women but refused a “Mao Zedong-ist Red Guard” one from a young man. (“文革为什么分两大派?——广州两派红卫兵历史性对谈”, May 11, 2009, 地方文革史交流网; and, “毛泽东八次接见红卫兵 天安门内外两重天”, June 11, 2010, 天下韶山网.)

Both rallies were supposed to be peaceful. But with several thousand Maoist youths attending the Memorial Hall and many thousands of Red Flaggers going to the Stadium, the two parade processions began to exchange heated arguments, including when some Red Flaggers served their memorial wreaths to the Maoists, and then the fighting began. Though the Maoists were much smaller in numbers, they had come dressed in paramilitary gears carrying spears and daggers and had the walled and gated Memorial Hall as their base, but the Red Flaggers quickly trucked hand-combat weapons to the area.

Local military commanders sent several hundred soldiers to try to mediate, but they were attacked by the Red Flaggers and had to be evacuated by larger contingents of soldiers. General Huang Ronghai, Commander of the Guangdong Military District who also headed Guangzhou city’s military control commission, then came to the scene and he, too, could not contained the situation. Eventually several thousand troops arrived and formed walls of human chains to separate the warring sides. (“一九六七年大动乱(下)”, June 11, 2008, 广州文艺.)

Like with the June 4 events on Tiananmen Square 22 years later, casualty estimates varied for this “July 23 Incident”.

Right afterwards, the propaganda publications by the Red Flaggers and the East Winders, each headed by a banner featuring Chairman Mao’s supreme directive, “要用文斗, 不用武斗”(fight intellectually, not militantly), blamed members of the other side as the violent aggressors who caused the bloody mass debacle, calling them murderers in a premeditated massacre.

The Maoists announced that 26 of them were killed or missing while the Red Flaggers put their death toll at 33 – a total of 59 – and of course hundreds more wounded on each side. (““文革”中广州的第一场特大型武斗”, December 21, 2008, 羊城网.) In one publication the Maoist Red Guards gave graphic descriptions of what happened even after some of their wounded had been hospitalized:

“We learned afterwards that in the afternoon of the 23rd 6 Maoists and a teacher had been sent to City No. 1 Hospital for emergency rescue, and then on the 26th at around 3 p.m. several dozen Red Flaggers went to the hospital rooms, beat them to death and took the bodies away, leaving only blood splattered around in the room, that denounced to others the atrocity.”

However a local military estimate put the number of dead at only 4, wounded at over 400, and the military’s own wounded at over 140. (“从环江到珠江”, January 5, 2010, 河池日报)

Then a book by Harvard University professor Ezra Vogel, One Step Ahead in China: Guangdong Under Reform, published in 1990, i.e., not long after the 1989 mass protests and military crackdown on Tiananmen Square, reported on this July 23, 1967 militant fighting at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall by saying, “when some from the stadium attacked those in the hall, many were injured” – without mentioning the deaths.

The “July 21 & July 23 Incidents” plunged Guangzhou into a period of fear, semi-lawlessness and violence. In addition to fears for the various Red Guard groups’ attacks and counterattacks, fears for violent crimes also shot up. I remember that virtually every building or house in Guangzhou, including our dwelling, became fortified, with all doors and windows reinforced by metal or heavy-wooden bars and some simply sealed off with bricks.

Zhongshan University, the most prominent entity in Guangzhou named in honor of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, would have its share of militant fighting, with a year-long escalation of tension between the Red Flaggers and the East Winders culminating in what became known as the “June 3 Incident” of 1968, before the military in Guangdong fully intervened and disarmed all the Red Guards.

One day in 1967 – I recall it as in the summertime – I was walking in front of the north-facing entrance of the Small Auditorium – formerly Lingnan University’s YMCA building also known as Swasey Hall where Dr. Sun Yat-sen had given a speech in 1923 – in between it and a group of Red Guards on a break from militant drilling at the edge of the green lawn where farther north stood Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s bronze statue – a statue that for a couple of years in the 1950s had stood in front of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall until a new statue was made for the Hall (“Swasey Hall” and “中山先生铜像”, Sun Yat-sen University; and, Dong Wang, Managing God's higher learning: U.S.-China cultural encounter and Canton Christian College (Lingnan University), 1888-1952, 2007, Lexington Books). One of the Red Guards chatting with another saw me and, in a mock but serious posture, turned toward me and imitated a ‘dagger throw’ at me – being only 8 years old I was quite scared but I was right in front of a target practice board!

These Red Guards may have been East Winders, and the Small Auditorium one of the few buildings on ZD campus in their control before months later the Red Flaggers stormed it to take it over – an event I watched that wasn’t very violent if I remember correctly (or the takeover had happened before the simulated dagger throw by a Red Flagger).

I recall that the Small Auditorium’s basement had been a weapons depot of the People’s Arms office of the University, which supervised the local People’s Militia but neither was functioning during Red Guards’ days, and so the Red Flaggers took over dozens of rifles which the East Winders had not armed themselves with but safeguarded on behalf of the old administration.

My father at the time belonged to the East Winders – most of the junior faculty members had to be on one or the other Red Guard side in order not to be targeted as being un-revolutionary, and being not anti-government my father wrote some propaganda pamphlets for the East Winders.

Not every junior faculty member went with it, though. My old classmate buddy “Ling”’s father, who was my father’s fellow lecturer at the Philosophy department but a little more senior, did not believe in the Cultural Revolution’s political correctness and refused to take part in it. He was denounced by his own students – an experience that appeared like my mother’s at her middle school from what “Ling” has told me:

“My dad did not belong to either and was a target by his own students. I recalled one day he came home with his head half shaven. I did not dare to ask why but could see how angry, heartbroken and confused he was.”

“Ling”’s father, Prof. Yuan Weishi, is today a very well-known intellectual in China, a prolific scholar in Chinese history and politics with influential independent views and public outspokenness. (“Leading Publication Shut Down In China: Party’s Move Is Part Of Wider Crackdown”, By Philip P. Pan, January 25, 2006, The Washington Post; and, “袁伟时教授访谈录:回望百年共和路”, by 笑蜀, November 17, 2006, Xinhua News (新华网).)

In the Red Guard days the university had about 5,000 students, most of them members of one or the other side and majority of them Red Flaggers. But not all of them participated in the militant activities and only a small number of junior faculty members did. At the height of the turbulent militant period from around the “July 23 Incident” at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall to the early fall of 1968 when the military closed down the militant Red Guards, all the major campus buildings were controlled by the militant Red Guards armed with spears and guns, and most by the Red Flaggers who in addition to hundreds of rifles and grenades also had a collection of small cannons, anti-aircraft guns, etc.

Many of the weapons, especially the heavy types, were from the military. In early 1967 some of the Red Guards, such as the ZD Red Flag Commune and “August 31”, went to preach revolution in the military compounds and had some political conflicts in that respect with the military leading up to the March military takeover in Guangdong. But some noncombat military personnel became politically organized also and a number of senior officers became targets. Then after Chairman Mao’s wife Jiang Qing called on the Red Guards to use militancy and weapons for defense (in July around the time of Guangzhou’s “July 21 & July 23 Incidents”), some military units allowed Red Guards from outside to seize some of their weapons. (Maurice J. Meisner, Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic, 1999, Simon and Schuster; ““二•八事件”激怒了军区”, by 叶曙明, December 9, 2005, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (; “广州六七反军和系列抢枪事件”, by 余习广, September 3, 2007, 余习广的BLOG; and, Andrew Langley, The Cultural Revolution: Years of Chaos in China, 2008, Compass Point Books.)

On the ZD campus the Red Guards regularly practiced close combat skills, and as they gained control of nearly the entire campus the Red Flaggers began to conduct harder military training such as target shooting and cannon firing.

On August 1, 1967, which happened to be the annual People’s Liberation Army Day, the ZD Red Flaggers successfully tested a chemical bomb on campus – quite a boisterous scene! But a death and an injury occurred from accidents in the experimental making of the chemical bombs. As well, the chairman of the Chemistry department, a professor who had earned his Ph.D. in Germany in the 1930s and taken part in Nazi Germany’s weapons program, had a role in developing the chemical bombs and later suffered political repercussions. (“文攻武卫,武斗升级”, by 叶曙明, April 4, 2006, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (; and, ““文革”一页:中山大学被迫害的教授们”, November 12, 2009, 羊城网.)

August 11, 1967 saw one of the most deadly gunfire ambushes in Guangzhou. On that day, middle-school Red Flag leader Wang Xizhe and his followers first went to seize weapons at the air force compound across from his school, but found that the arms had been evacuated. Their car convoy then went on their way to the city’s Baiyun Airport to join a dispute over the kidnapping of Cultural Revolution representatives just flown in from the Communist Party central in Beijing. As they drove past the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall they encountered a hail of rifle fire and hurriedly changed their destination to the Sun Yat-sen Medical University (then a separate institution from but since part of Sun Yat-sen University) for emergency care – 5 of Wang’s comrades were killed and he was among the over a dozen wounded. (“走向黑暗——王希哲自传(上)”, by 王希哲, November 13, 2009, 地方文革史交流网.)

Today, Wang Xizhe (王希哲) is very well known as a Chinese democracy activist in exile after spending on and off many years  in jail in China for his political activities, and as a former collaborator of the jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo – in 1996 the two jointly issued the “October Tenth Declaration” calling for a dialogue between the governments of Mainland China and Taiwan among other political changes. (“The Nobel Peace Prize 2010: Liu Xiaobo – Photo Gallery”, Nobel Foundation; “A survey of China: Look, no dissidents; All critics have been silenced”, March 6, 1997, The Economist; and, “Liu Xiaobo biography”, by Jean-Philippe Béja, October 28, 2010, Reporters without Borders.)

The first Zhongshan University casualty from the Red Guards’ actual militant conflicts may have come from a sniper shot originating from outside the campus – as I can recall.

In 1967 and the first half of 1968 the Red Flag students gradually took over nearly all of the large (non-residential) campus buildings. Across the street from the campus south side were a number of factories controlled by the East Wind workers armed just like the ZD Red Flaggers. Several large buildings inside the ZD campus south wall were made into Red Flag fortresses, from where they would exchange nightly gunfire with the factory East Winders across the street. The two biggest ZD fortresses were the elegant Female Students Residence from the Lingnan University days, and the newer Biology Building – with the two biggest factories across the street being the Guangzhou Electric Motors Factory and the Guangdong Tractor Factory. (“王永健:中山大学广寒宫” (‘Guanghan Palace’ – Female Students Residence), 新华网.)

Normally gunfire did not occur during the daylight hours so people could go about their basic necessities such as work, grocery shopping, or schooling for us the kids (but of course no classes for the university students). But then one day at the elementary school a story circulated that a Red Guard standing watch on the rooftop of the Biology Building during the day, unarmed, was shot dead by sniper fire – origin of the gunshot assumed to be one of the two big factories across the street.

By some time in 1967-68 only one major ZD campus building remained in the East Winders’ control, the Central Library. It was the university East Winders’ headquarters, where hundreds of them were barricaded inside. Their food supplies were brought in by East Wind workers and peasants from outside the campus, during regular intervals of ceasefire and going through checkpoint inspections by the university Red Flaggers. Threats from the East Wind workers and peasants to invade the campus to rescue their comrades served as a deterrent against any serious attack by the ZD Red Flaggers on the ZD East Winder headquarters.

With the East Wind headquarters holed up and holding up in the Central Library till the time when the military came to restore order, most of the books there were saved. The stereotype story about burning and destruction of books I read in Western publications, such as in the following quote, is inaccurate as far as I can remember (although more serious damages including book burning did occur at a small number of departmental libraries):

“At Zhongshan University in Canton, the Red Guards first burned all the books from the collection of Western classics; then they burned all texts not obviously Communist or Maoist; and then they burned the library building itself (Thurston 1987).”

The book quoted above, Libricide: The Regime-sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century, published in 2003, was written by the University of Hawaii Library & Information Science professor Rebecca Knuth, an expert on book burning. (“75th Anniversary of the Nazi Book Burnings: Interview with Rebecca Knuth”, AbeBooks.)

I wish Rebecca had a better source of information for this story on the Cultural Revolution; during 1997-99 I taught Computer Science in the same department as Rebecca and we even went together visiting a U.S. military disaster assistance information center in the Camp Smith compound of the United States Pacific Command. (the trip with Rebecca and two other female professors has been mentioned in my Facebook comment on a Council on Foreign Relations article by Commander Michael L. Baker of the U.S. Navy,

Nevertheless there was burning of a ZD campus building in a related storyline – after a group of East Winders broke free from the Central Library and took over the old Physics Building in the summer of 1968.

On June 3, 1968, a deadly battle happened when the Red Flaggers waged an attack to retake the Physics Building, including using guns and explosives, and setting the building on fire in the end. Some of the kids watched it. (刘国凯, 广州红旗派的兴亡 (下), 2006, 博大出版社 (courtesy of 地方文革史交流网); and, “一个小学生眼中的中大“六·三”武斗”, by Shihui Wang, November 11, 2007, 初级阶段 (

I don’t remember witnessing this battle or hearing all the commotions, likely because I was out of ZD campus staying with some of my mother’s friends or relatives in Guangzhou. Whenever rumors circulated of imminent militant fighting on ZD campus, or imminent invasion by East Wind workers, my mother would take my sister and I, and sometimes our grandparents, to one of these places.

I remember one time, probably in the winter of 1967-68, staying with my grandparents at their friends’ house in a city alleyway neighborhood, where the alley passage to the main street was barricaded at both ends and patrolled 24 hours by local watchmen armed with spears and iron bars.

Another time, probably in the spring of 1968, my mother, sister and I stayed at the dorm-apartment of two of her friends, a career-training school teacher couple who had two daughters around the age of us the siblings, and with the same family name, too.

This last time in June 1968, my sister probably joined my father who had been for months living in a village – the Old Phoenix Village (旧凤凰村) – behind the factories across from ZD campus south side – a price to pay for being sort of an East Winder in a Red Flag-dominated university when the going got tough. (My first blog article, "Greeting the New Millennium – nearly a decade late", has some interesting facts about the area in upstate New York my sister and her family live today, that to me are relevant.)

I probably stayed in the dorm room of Uncle Lin Weisan, my mother’s first cousin and a medical student at Sun Yat-sen Medical University, and soon afterwards left with him for my second sojourn to the Shantou region, this time to his home village in Jieyang (揭阳) County where I also got to visit Grandpa’s ancestral village. Uncle Weisan, son of Grandpa’s youngest sister and not directly related to Grandma even though also a “Lin”, is today a neurologist-doctor in another city in Guangdong, known for its petroleum production and the lychee fruits in its region. He and the others of my mother’s younger relatives and my parent’s younger friends helped us a lot – not the least getting big bamboos from the bamboo woods next to the Female Students Residence to barricade all the floor-to-ceiling foyer windows in our first-floor dwelling in a Western-style house.

Despite the calamity of this violent “June 3 Incident” and the many injured, there were only two deaths, one Red Flagger in the attack, and a top East Wind leader, Ruan Xiangyang (阮向阳). When the fire was burning up the Physics Building Ruan escaped from the top floor by climbing out a window down the wall, and running to hide in a home nearby, but he was then caught by a group of pursuers. Unluckily for Ruan, the pursuers were mostly middle school Red Flaggers from outside the university who had come to re-enforce their comrades, and they practically beat him to death. (“一个小学生眼中的中大“六·三”武斗”, by Shihui Wang, November 11, 2007, 初级阶段 (; and, “走向黑暗——王希哲自传(上)”, by 王希哲, November 13, 2009, 地方文革史交流网.)

Both the ZD “August 31” leader, Mathematics student Huang Yijian, and the middle school Red Flag leader Wang Xizhe, had roles directing this June 3 attack on scene.

But neither Huang Yijian or Wang Xizhe were the top leader of the Red Flaggers. The No.1 Red Flag leader in Zhongshan University was Biology student Wu Chuanbin (武传斌), who was a member of the Guangdong Provincial Revolutionary Committee formed in February 1968 to integrate the politically correct officials and Red Guard leaders into the military rule, and composed of 9 military members, 10 officials, 6 workers, 4 peasants, and 4 students – for a total of 33. (“文革“七二五讲话”:不仅仅是广西造反组织的终结”, by 闻于樵, April 12, 2002, 文革博物馆通讯(一二六), 华夏文摘增刊; and, “广东省革命委员会名单”, by 叶曙明, November 22, 2006, 历史现场的黑白记忆 (

In any case, about two months after the “June 3 Incident” in 1968 the military and affiliated workers’ law-and-order militia entered the ZD campus and disarmed the Red Flaggers without meeting resistance, and the period of Cultural Revolution militant violence was over for Zhongshan University.

This happened after a July 25 meeting in Beijing with Red Guard representatives in which both Premier Zhou Enlai and General Huang Yongsheng, by then Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese military but still heading the Guangdong Provincial Revolutionary Committee, called Wu Chuanbin a trouble maker, who then quickly fell from grace by early August. (“廣西「反共救國團」冤案始末 (3)——文革機密檔案揭密之一”, by 小平頭(丹麥), November 18, 2006, and, “廣西「反共救國團」冤案始末 (4)——文革機密檔案揭密之一”, by 小平頭(丹麥), November 19, 2006, Epoch Times.)

Wu Chuanbin lives in Toronto, Canada today, so I guess The Globe and Mail journalist Jan Wong, the self-style “starry-eyed Maoist”, isn’t the only Canadian in her adulation of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. (“Alumni 中山大學多倫多校友名錄”, February 8, 2005, Sun Yat-sen University Toronto Alumni Association.)

I remember for a couple of weeks in August 1968 there were many hundreds of soldiers and thousands of workers’ militia on campus, some of them going from house to house searching for weapons. At least a dozen of the workers searched our dwelling, with several dozen more standing about in the yard and on the roads next to the house. I had a large slingshot made for me by one of my relative uncles, and a worker made a point of telling me that it was a “weapon” to be confiscated – much to my disappointment.

For reasons I don’t know, after the “June 3 Incident” the dead East Wind leader Ruan Xiangyang’s body was preserved in the Biology Building, and so after the military had restored order the East Winders held a mass memorial service with his body on display. My old classmate buddy “Ling” claims he and other kids sneaked into the building and watched the makeup process for Ruan’s body the day before the memorial service.

Ruan Xiangyang's sad end reminds me of my mother having been roughed up by her middle school Red Guards in 1966. His name, 阮向阳, also sounds like a bad omen to me as my Grandma Lin Zhenhua (林珍华), part of whose Christian family history I have discussed in my Chinese blog post, "忆往昔,学历史智慧" (“Reminiscing the past, learning history’s wisdom"), had a second name, Lin Ruanju (林阮菊). Soon at the July 1 Elementary School in 1970 we would have a new Mathematics (Arithmetic) teacher, a charming young women by the name of Ruan Jiabi (阮嘉碧 or 阮佳碧), whose name now many years later sounds exactly like ‘soft Canadian currency’.

Grandma passed away in 1980 at the age of 82 (I believe she was born in 1898, the same year as Zhou Enlai), and I left China in 1982. But I find that my old teacher Miss Ruan might still be teaching elementary arithmetic in the same Haizhu District of Guangzhou, and with a prestigious ‘experimental school’ – Beijing University’s affiliated middle school’s Guangzhou Experimental School! (“四年级数学教师:阮嘉碧”,  北大附中广州实验学校; and, “数学组教研工作总结”, April 10, 2007, CN-Teacher (中国教师站).)

My mother has retired from her Guangzhou No. 33 Middle School years ago. After leaving the July 1 Elementary School in 1972 I entered and four years later graduated from the Guangzhou No. 6 Middle School. This school had been Zhongshan University’s affiliated middle school for a couple of years prior to the Cultural Revolution, and before that had been founded in 1937 as the affiliated middle school of the Huangpu (Whampoa) Military Academy established in the same year 1924 as Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen) University by an intellectual leader and a guiding light for military officers – Dr. Sun Yat-sen! (“Sun Yat-sen University”, “Whampoa Military Academy” and “广州市第六中学”, Wikipedia.)

(Continuing to Part 3)

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