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Purging One Hundred Flowers – The 50th Anniversary of China’s Anti-rightist Campaign

May 2007 is the 50th anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Movement in communist China. Back in May 1957, Mao Zedong initiated a campaign to purge alleged rightist from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Over 550,000 people were purged. Fifty years later, the term "Anti-Rightist Movement" remains a sensitive topic. The Communist Party refuses to apologize or to compensate the victims. Further, the CCP Propaganda Department, through a mandate issued earlier this year, has ordered Chinese media not to mention this issue.

On April 10, 1957, People’s Daily published an editorial calling on intellectuals to voice their suggestions and criticisms to the Party, promising no retaliation. Mao declared, "Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend." This was the "Hundred Flowers Campaign." CCP branches at all levels were instructed to encourage intellectuals to put aside their concerns and to come forward.

Suggestions and criticism poured in.

Then on May 15, 1957, Mao issued an internal notice alerting all CCP branches to be ready for a crackdown. On June 8, 1957, People’s Daily issued an editorial labeling those making suggestions and criticism to the CCP as anti-Communist Party and anti-socialism. The purge began. As a result of the suggestions they had been encouraged to make, tens of thousands of people lost their freedom, and millions of families suffered. Some were sentenced to prison, while others were sent to forced labor camps, where they were subjected to torture, starvation, sleep deprivation and other cruel and inhuman treatment. Their families were discriminated against in areas such as jobs and government medical benefits. Hundreds of thousands of people perished.

How many "rightists" were purged? The official number stands at 550,000, but the unofficial estimate is two million. That number includes approximately half of the intellectual elite of China at that time.

Scholars in the fields of political science, economics, sociology, history, and arts were the hardest hit. The most well known is Zhang Bojun (1895 -1969), who held a number of prominent government positions, including Minister of Transportation and President of Guanming Daily (the China State Council newspaper). Zhang studied philosophy in Germany between 1921 and 1924. A former CCP member, he was one of the founders of the "China Democratic League," a democratic party in China. He criticized the one party rule and advocated a two-house Congress. On June 8, 1957, the official opening of the Anti-Rightist campaign, he was considered the first and the Number 1 rightist. He died of cancer on May 17, 1969. Zhang was one of the few "rightists" who were not redressed after the Cultural Revolution.

Others include Luo Longji, China’s Minister of Forestry Industry who also held other government and democratic positions. He had been jailed under the Nationalist rule of China prior to the communist takeover in 1949. Yet, the CCP purged him because he refused to acknowledge the CCP’s leadership in the charter of the China Democratic League.
Now 77 years old, Zhu Rongji who served as Premier of China from March 1998 to March 2003 was also purged as a rightist. He graduated from the prestigious Tsinghua University in 1951, majoring in electrical engineering. According to his former colleagues, Zhu was indeed wrongfully purged. The work unit had a quota to fill and there was a shortage of rightists. With this education background, they chose him as a natural rightist.

Most of the purged rightists were purged simply because they disagreed with their bosses. Many were called "nodding rightists" because they nodded their head at rightists’ viewpoints during the Anti-Rightists conferences. One main target was the independent legal system. Legal professionals were transferred to other jobs; instead, political cadres and the police exercised judicial power.

According to official data published by communist China, in May 1980, all but a few of the 550,000 rightists, including the No. 1 rightist, Zhang Bojun, received redress. It is estimated there are about less than 10,000 "former rightists" still alive today.

At the beginning of 2007, the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department convened a meeting to lay out the ground rules on what should and shouldn’t appear in China’s media and publications. The Anti-Rightist campaign of 50 years ago was listed as one of the forbidden items.

The No. 1 rightist Zhang Bojun’s retired daughter, Ms. Zhang Yihe, wrote three books about the purge. The CCP authorities banned them all. She filed a lawsuit against the China General Administration of Press and Publications. The CCP controlled court tossed it out and refused to hear it.

The ban on her books remind us of the brutal purges 50 years ago. The issue that China faces today has not changed in fifty years: democracy vs. autocracy, to freely express criticism of to stifle it.

Ms. Zhang pointed out that the CCP believes it will survive the 550,000 rightists that it purged, but it forgot that behind the 550,000, are millions of family members.

Xiao Tian is a correspondent for Chinascope.

From the Editor

Fifty years ago, Mao Zedong and his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initiated a nationwide "anti-rightist" campaign in China, labeling around 550,000 intellectuals who had criticized the Party’s policies as "national enemies" and "anti-Party, anti-socialist rightists." Because the "rightists" were actually encouraged explicitly by Mao and the CCP to voice their concerns about the Party’s work prior to the campaign, it is generally viewed by Chinese historians that the campaign was a political trap set by Mao to purge potential dissidents and rivals.

The campaign brought immediate disaster to the "rightists." Some died during the infamous "struggle sessions." Many others died in prisons or labor camps, and their family members were indiscriminately persecuted as well to different extents. This was the first of the CCP’s remarkably similar, cyclical movements of purging its own people: the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre (1989), and the ongoing crackdown of Falun Gong (1999-present). Each time, a new group of innocent citizens was targeted by violence and overwhelming force. Perhaps most damaging, though, China’s traditional values of honesty and trust that had been its mainstay throughout history have been damaged beyond recognition, and they have been replaced a CCP-driven culture of deceit and violence. For the sake of survival, few today dare to challenge authority and speak the truth on sensitive issues. The moral degeneration of today’s China, reflected through slave labor, general lawlessness, and rampant counterfeit items of all sorts like forged diplomas, tainted food, fake medicine, and pirated intellectual property, is directly attributable to the propagation of the CCP culture.

True to form, the CCP is refusing to acknowledge that it made a mistake 50 years ago. Although the "rightist" label was removed from use in 1978, the CCP has never expressed public remorse for the campaign or provided financial compensation to the victims or their families. The website for CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily still emphasizes that the campaign was "a resolute counterattack against the very few capitalist rightists’ furious attack of (the Party and socialism) and was absolutely necessary," only acknowledging that the campaign was "overly expanded."

This year is the 50th anniversary of the "anti-rightist" campaign. Ever mindful of any potential threat to its rule, the CCP is prohibiting public discussion of the campaign and banning all published material related to the topic. In spite of this imposing set of circumstances, over 1,000 "rightist" survivors sent an open letter to the CCP leadership, demanding a lift of restrictions on the freedom of speech, a public apology, and monetary compensation. One thousand may not be a big number relative to the total number of victims, but their actions carry a huge implication. It is a signal that people are demanding justice. As Ren Zhong, former officer of the Beijing Public Security Bureau and one of the "rightists" who initiated the open letter, said, "If we do not raise the issue, no one would bring it up when we all pass away. We want to restore history. This is our historical responsibility."

A Tsinghua University Graduate Committed Suicide When He Could Not Find a Job – a Reminder of the Di

At 9:40 on October 31, 2006, a man jumped to his death from the 7th floor of a student dormitory building in Zhongying College, Quanzhou, Fujian Province. The police found a suicide note. The deceased said he committed suicide because he could not find a satisfactory job and did not want to be a burden to his parents. It is getting harder and harder for undergraduate and graduate students to find work. More undergraduate students are choosing to work rather than go to graduate school. In one study, 60% of graduate students regretted going to graduate school.

Chinese Traditional Musical Instruments: The Erhu

In Chinese musical events, one can often see a special instrument-the Chinese vertical fiddle, or erhu, performed as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. The humble erhu, however, despite its simple appearance, is capable of reaching depths of musical expression far beyond expectation.

The erhu, sometimes known in the West as the "Chinese violin" or Chinese two-string fiddle, is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument. It belongs to the huqin family of Chinese bowed string instruments. From the 30 or more types of huqin instruments documented throughout China’s history, a few, such as the erhu, have remained popular to this day, reaching the level of a solo instrument capable of expressing deep emotions and imitating natural sounds such as birds, horses, and even the human voice. There are usually two to six erhus in smaller orchestras, and 10 to 12 in larger ones.

Although often likened to the violin, the sound of the erhu is somewhat thinner and more nasal, with its unique tone generated by a piece of stretched python skin over the small sound box. Like other huqin instruments, the erhu does not have a fingerboard; the player’s fingers press on the strings without the strings ever touching the instrument’s neck. The hair of the bow remains permanently between the two strings, which are so closely positioned that the player’s left hand effectively moves along both strings at once to create notes, while the right hand plays the rhythm and creates the musical tone.

During China’s Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the erhu was popular for accompanying Chinese operas. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the erhu developed into a solo instrument.

This came about at a time when music conservatories were opening across the country and promoting Western instruments, music notation, and standardization. Many traditional Chinese instruments were sidelined or reinvented along more "scientific" and "modern" lines. For the erhu, its traditional silk strings were replaced with metal strings from the West.

    In more recent times, the erhu plays an important role in Chinese orchestras, filling the same parts as the violin in Western orchestras. Performers, such as Ms. Qi Xiaochun and George Gao, both students of the famous erhu artist Wang Yongde, have helped to popularize erhu music at an international level.

    The name huqin literally means "barbarian instrument," indicating the origins of Chinese fiddles, like the erhu, being with peoples from the northwest of China. Possibly the term also refers to the simple musical language expected from such a "primitive" instrument. However, anyone today who has heard of or been lucky enough to experience a master erhu solo performance in person is most often moved by the depth and richness of musical insight expressed through the instrument via the skill and realm of the player.