Man Who Had Mother Executed Wants Tomb Honored
Zhang Hongbing says officials should allow him to mark the dark chapter in the country’s history, but they refuse
By staff reporters Zhou Qun and Chen Baocheng
(Beijing) – “I am willing to humble my soul and publicly confess to my mother who died because of my tip-off,” says Zhang Hongbing.
The 60-year-old, who was among the most radical Red Guards during the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, describes his life as one full of regret.
“I see myself as part of a history of shame and a negative example to others,” he says.
For years, Zhang has sought to have the tomb of his mother, who was killed during the Cultural Revolution due to information he provided, recognized as a cultural relic. He says this is an effort to help more people understand the turmoil of the period.
However, the authorities have constantly rejected his requests. On February 20, a court in Bengbu, Anhui Province, turned down Zhang’s latest lawsuit, which like others sought to force the government to honor his wish.
Afterward, Zhang said he wanted to make his story known to the public “to let people know that the Cultural Revolution made family members turn against each other.”
A Lingering Memory
Zhang, now a lawyer in Beijing, traces his actions during the Cultural Revolution to his youth. “The education I got from school when I was little was just like being bred by wolves,” he says.
Zhang was a teenager during the Cultural Revolution, and Bengbu authorities at the time said he was a model Red Guard. The latter was a mass movement of young people that espoused Maoist principles and attacked anything Mao Zedong deemed a threat.
Zhang’s father, Zhang Yuesheng, then a minor Communist Party official in the eastern province of Anhui, was accused of taking a “capitalist road,” a dangerous accusation that meant he was suspected of seeking to turn the country away from socialism.
Zhang’s mother, Fang Zhongmou, was a doctor in a local hospital. She suffered harsh denouncement for her family’s “landlord” background.
Zhang said he wrote articles critical of his father to prove his loyalty to the Red Guard movement. He was also the person in his family to criticize his mother the most.
The family tragedy started one February night in 1970 when Fang privately expressed support for Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, top party officials who fell out of power and were purged. Liu, the former president of China, is a good example of the viciousness of the period. He died in a dirty prison cell in late 1969 while being denied medical care.
Zhang said his mother also burned a picture of Mao, and he and his father reported her behavior to the authorities. Two months later, Fang was executed for her “anti-revolutionary” crimes. The teenager was applauded by local authority for “upholding justice.”
Zhang says he knew what the outcome of his accusations would be. “Surely I knew the result. According to the laws of that time, it had to be like that.”
Perhaps most painfully, he recalls that in the report he submitted he recommended the death penalty for his mother.