Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Remember or Not to Remember

Issue 57 of Remembrance (in Chinese) arrived yesterday, on the second anniversary of this important e-journal.  The current issue focuses on the “one crackdown, three counterings” (一打三反) campaign that took place in  1970, during which a large number of innocent people and young thinkers with dissident thoughts were executed, including the extraordinary 27-year-old  Yu Luoke.  Today few young people in China are aware of this dark time when words and thoughts cost one’s life.

The first article in this issue by Wang Rui is titled “Zhou Enlai and the ‘One Crackdown, Three Counterings’ Campaign,” claiming it was Zhou Enlai, not Mao Zedong, who launched this cruel campaign. Another article, titled “The 40th Anniversary Memorial of Nanjing’s March 6 Public Verdict” by Fang Zifen, gives a heart-wrenching eye-witness account of the tragic day four decades ago, when 11 “counter-revolutionaries”  were given a sudden death verdict in public and executed on the spot, with 100,000 people looking on.  The execution was so abrupt and unexpected that the families of the victims had no means to collect the ashes, which were then forever lost.  A decade later, every case was overturned – 100% wrongly executed. This is the city well known for "The Rape of Nanjing."  “Now every year on December 13, Chinese mourn with deep grief those countrymen killed in the [1937] Japanese massacre, but for unknown reasons the victims of the smaller massacre on March 6, 1970 are gradually forgotten. Not me!” – The author writes. He was one of the more fortunate victims that day, getting only a life sentence.

Fang’s lamenting reminds me of a conversation I had with a Japanese several years ago.  My sister and I were site-seeing Yunnan’s terraced fields around the time of the Spring Festival. One early morning we, like many other tourists, got up about 4 am trying to catch the spectacular sunrise.  In the dim dawn a luxury bus of Japanese tourists arrived at the cliff we were all standing atop. The sun did not rise, and somehow I got into a chat with the nice Japanese gentleman by my side, who looked to be in his sixties. He was carrying a set of expensive-looking cameras, and spoke fluent Chinese.  At the time the news had spread that the Japanese government erased from school textbooks any mention of their invasion of China during the 1930s-40s, and Chinese resentment of this was running high.  I don’t remember how we got to that topic, but at one point I said, either trying to explain the sentiment, or being provocative as sometimes a journalist would do , “Japanese did lots of bad things to Chinese during the Second World War, you know.” The man replied – to my complete surprise – “Chinese did lots of bad things to Chinese too. People do bad things everywhere.”

I was tongue-tied, for a moment didn’t know how to respond. In retrospect, I was upset not only because his tone was unapologetic but also because there was a slice of truth in his words.  Finally I said, “That does not excuse the Japanese atrocities.” “No it doesn’t,” he agreed.

Should the Chinese’s own killing be excused or forgotten, then?  The reality is, we’ll probably never see a public mourning of those innocent people killed by their government during the 1970s.

If you can read Chinese, read the new issue of Remembrance here.

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