A Son’s Guilt Over the Mother He Sent to Her Death

The Guardian’s Tania Branigan profiles 60-year-old Zhang Hongbing, whose denunciation of his mother during the Cultural Revolution led to her execution. Zhang is now trying to make amends for his role in his mother’s death by fighting for the preservation of her grave in Anhui. Zhang describes his mother’s case to Branigan:

“Her father’s death, her husband’s persecution, her daughter’s death – everything that happened made her suspicious of the Cultural Revolution … She was sick of [it],” said Zhang.

Eventually conditions improved and she was allowed to sleep at home. Then, one evening, her zealous son accused her of tacitly criticising Mao. The family row spiralled rapidly: Fang called for the return of purged leaders and attacked Mao for his personality cult. “I warned her: ‘If you go against our dear Chairman Mao I will smash your dog head,'” Zhang said, at times reading from his father’s testimony. “I felt this wasn’t my mother. This wasn’t a person. She suddenly became a monster … She had become a class enemy and opened her bloody mouth.”

Fang’s brother begged her to take her words back, warning she would be killed. “I’m not scared,” Fang replied. She tore down and burned Mao’s picture.

When her husband and son ran to denounce her, “I understood it meant death,” Zhang said. In fact, he added, he called for her to be shot as a counter-revolutionary. He last saw her as she knelt on stage in the hours before her death.

The report includes a video interview with Zhang.

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