Date: MAY 14 2016
By: JANIS MACKEY FRAYER
BEIJING — The crowd packed into Tiananmen Square roared and raised their fists as Communist China’s founding father strode onto the stage in the summer of 1966,
recalls Yu Xiangzhen.
“We went crazy,” the retired journalist said nearly 50 years later. “We shouted, ‘Long live Chairman Mao!’ until I lost my voice.”
Yu, who was 13 at the time, was witnessing the start of one of the most traumatic periods in China’s long history.
Mao launched what became known as the Cultural Revolution on May 16, 1966. He
sought to “purify” the country of capitalists, non-believers and anyone who questioned the preeminence of his own ideology.
He called on the working class to rise up against “representatives of the bourgeoisie,” triggering a decade of upheaval that saw real or imagined enemies persecuted and driven from their homes and jobs. Millions more were uprooted from cities and sent to the countryside to work, and the economy contracted dramatically.
There is no official death toll for the 10-year period, but scholars Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals wrote in “Mao’s Last Revolution” that 1.5 million people died of hunger, torture, execution and suicide in rural China alone. A similar number were permanently maimed, they estimated.
“China was like a madhouse,” prominent Beijing-based historian Zhang Lifan told NBC News. “Mao Zedong should take most of the responsibility but it was a collective crime — all of China should clean the residue of the Cultural Revolution.”
Yu, the former journalist, was a member of Red Guard student mobs that fomented violence in many schools. At Mao’s bidding, children turned on parents and teachers, and parts of the country descended into anarchy. [FULL STORY]