Is The Second Cultural Revolution At Hand?
A Survivor From The First Cultural Revolution Speaks

 
China is tightening its grips on its people and control of media has become one of the pillars of the Chinese communist party. When Xi Jinping paid a visit to the state media in February, he said, “Our family name is the Party”, meaning that the state media have to have an absolute loyalty to the party. Chinese property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang was put to one-year probation for having openly criticized Xi’s policy on the media saying that “When does people’s government become the party’s government?” Also, a senior editor of Ming Pao, which is one of the most prestigious papers in Hong Kong was dismissed for writing the stories that revealed the Panama Papers. This means Hong Kong’s freedom of the press is very much threatened by China’s communist authorities, and reminds us uncomfortably of the Cultural Revolution which began 50 years ago in May. We talked to Mrs. Li Schoolland who underwent the Cultural Revolution. Her story will teach us that the precious value of liberty will reveal itself when it is lost.

 

The Loss of Liberty

Q: Professor Ken he taught me we often realize how important liberty is when we lose that liberty.

A: Yes, definitely.

Q: And he explained to me you lost your liberty during the Cultural Revolution.

A: Right. Even before that.

Q: Could you tell us more about that?

A: Yes. I was born in China in the 1950′s when the Communists took over China. Everything became nationalized. No private property. No private businesses. Everything belonged to the government because this was communism, so what belongs to you belongs to me, but in fact we didn’t own anything, so the same time when we lost our property, our liberty was also taken away. Everything was decided for us. How much you can eat; what you can eat; where you can live; who you can marry; where you go to school; what you study at school – everything. Every aspect of life was determined by the government, so in 1966, when the Cultural Revolution started, things got even worse. Everyone who was educated, who had connections with people outside of China, for example, who had relatives in Japan, Europe, America, they were labeled as spies. And those who were educated were told that , “You are educated, so you want to overthrow the government”. They labelled everyone. They called it the Cultural Revolution because they wanted to re-educate you. Because all the knowledge you had was all bad. The Communists wanted to re-educate you to put only Communist ideas in your head. And if you had any other thoughts, you were bad, and were punished.

Q: How were you punished?

A: For example, from my family, my father was put in prison; my mother was taken away every day to study Mao’s book on communism from early morning to late at night. Our schools were closed. They beat the teachers. They burned all the books. We no longer had teachers nor books.

Q: How old were you?

A: I was nine years old when it happened. For two years we didn’t have school or books. Nothing. If you wanted to learn, you were bad. And so the only thing you could learn was Mao’s book, Mao’s teaching.

 

The So-Called “Sins of the Fathers” Were Visited Upon The Children

Q: Did you understand why your father was taken away?

A; Yes, I did, for several reasons.

One of the reasons why we were punished is because we had relatives, our grandparents and great grandparents, who were involved in politics, who were factory owners, who were bankers, and who were capitalists. All of those things were considered undesirable. So because of those relatives, we were punished. Not because of what I did. I was 9 years old. I did nothing. But because I had big name relatives I had never met, and even though we didn’t have anything from those relatives, we were still punished. They traced eight generations, and if anybody in those eight generations had land, or owned property, then you were automatically bad.

 

The Red And The Black

So they divided the country into red and black. Red meant in eight generations, nobody had any property, all of them were very poor, which meant you were okay. If nobody knew how to read or write, you were okay.

But if anybody in eight generations owned anything, then you were black. So we were all black kids unless we denounced our family, then maybe you had a chance to become red. But I didn’t want to denounce my family. I think my family did nothing wrong, so we were not allowed to join the Right Guard; we were not allowed to do this or that. In school we had clubs, like book reading clubs, dance clubs, music – we were not allowed to participate because we were black kids.

So we were not allowed to decide anything in our lives. And anytime they wanted to come to our house and take things away, they could. They would just march in and say, “oh, look at this picture”. My parents and grandparents in the picture, they had nice, western style clothes. “Look at them, they wear western style clothes, and they are smiling. They are happy, so they’re bad.” They burned all the pictures. My father had shoes, and they would say, “You’re only supposed to have one pair of shoes; why do you have six? You’re bad.” So they burned all the shoes and the clothes. We have some nice looking blouses, not very nice looking, just nice looking, so they cut it into pieces. We had china dishes; they had colors and patterns. They broke every single one of them. Whatever they wanted to do, they would just come into the house and we just have to watch.

 

The Incalculable Cost of Loss of Self-Esteem and Freedom

Q: You had relatives who committed suicide?

A: Oh many, many, many. I think I counted about 11. We have 11 relatives who committed suicide. Some, like my cousin, were young at only 16 years old. He couldn’t understand, “What did we do wrong? I didn’t say anything wrong; I didn’t do anything wrong; why am I treated this way?”

Q: Did they choose to die?

A: Yes, they could not live anymore because you were treated like animals. You were treated not like human beings. You were also forced to confess. “What do I need to confess? I did nothing wrong.” “Oh, you have to confess. You hate your mother”. “No I don’t”. “Yes you do because you all have nice clothes. You have to leave your parents. We have to send you somewhere to feed the pigs”. “I don’t want to”. “No, you have no choice”. And so some of us would say, “Okay, I don’t want to live anymore.”

As for me, my father was in prison. My mother, they cut her hair on one side, and the other side was shaved. They just want to make you look ugly, and then they took you out to the streets. You have a sign on your neck saying, “I’m so and so; I’m an enemy of the people”. And then you have to have a gong to hit, and you march on the street and say, “I’m so and so; I’m bad; I hate communists”, and on and on. You walk on the street up and down and then people throw things at you, and they make me and my little brother watch. It’s really hard. And then they taunt me and my little brother, “Tell us, what kind of bad things has your mother taught you?” She didn’t teach us anything, so we just didn’t say anything. They said, “You’re not speaking; see your mother taught you to be against the communists”, so they just hit her. We have to watch. We had no money, no food. That’s how we grew up.

 

Comparison to Tibet

Q: Is it similar to the situation in Tibet now, where Monks are incarcerated?

A: Yes and no. It’s a little bit different, but the concept is the same. The concept is they don’t want you to be a person. An independent, respectful person, and have your own thoughts. So they try to change the way you think, but you cannot.

The Monk’s situation is that the government is afraid of them, because they have something that holds them together as a group: their belief. And the Chinese government is most afraid of such groups. So not just the Monk’s, the Christian’s, the Muslims, the Buddhist Monks. If you don’t group together it’s okay. If you group together, it’s not okay, so the government tries to stop you or put you in prison.

Q: How did you survive under that situation?

A: I just, had God. Our family were Christians, so I think God just kept us strong, and protected us. Also I, for some reason, didn’t believe lies. Most people believed lies. I had a classmate, who was the same age as me. When people told her that her father was educated in America and then came back to China, so he must be a spy. So she believed it, and she thought, “Why? I love my father so much. Why did my father lie to me? He didn’t tell me he was a spy.” She didn’t believe her father; she believed the government. So she went home and tried to hit her father. Then, the 9 year old, she went out and tried to commit suicide by jumping into a river. So the father, every day, would put a towel on his arms and legs and say, “You can bite me; you can hit me”. Because otherwise she couldn’t survive. She couldn’t understand. She believed the lies.

Q: She was brainwashed by the government.

A: Yes, she was shocked. For some reason I didn’t get to that point, but many of my friends, my relatives became that way.

 

The Rebirth of Hope

Q: But you have a belief in Christianity. That’s why you could survive.

A: I guess. I was too young to know, but I think God just protected me and my brother, and we survived. Yes, that’s a good word. We survived, and mom did tell us, “Do not believe anybody, what other people told you. We have to believe each other in the family”. So I said, “Okay”. So we did. Then later on they sent us away from the city to a very far away countryside. We were very thankful. Other people were crying. We were happy because we said, “Oh, our family is together”. We don’t mind. We don’t have anything. We lost everything, but we have each other. So the four of us went. We didn’t have electricity, no water, no toilet, and no food. I didn’t have shoes for two years, but we were happy because we were together. So I experienced communism and the collectivist economy. Everybody became farmers or workers, but nobody had any food to eat, because the government told the farmer what to plant. For example the area where we lived had no water, so we couldn’t plant rice, only tobacco and other things. But the government said everybody has to plant rice, so the farmers said, “Okay, we’ll plant rice”. We carried the water to put in the field, but nothing grew. So everybody was hungry. No food for people, and no food for animals. No pigs and cows either, so we were really, really poor. And immediately in late 1970, when the government stopped telling farmers what to do, everybody had food to eat.

I see the difference. Like the market, like the farmer, they know what to do. This is my land. I know I can’t plant rice, but I can plant corn; I can plant tobacco; I can sell. In one year everybody had food to eat. But in the ten years before that, nobody had anything.

 

The Need for Liberty

Q: Ten years…

A: Yeah, the Cultural Revolution lasted ten years. Every year after the harvest, farmers had to borrow food from the government. I saw how hard they worked. We worked really, really hard. So when the market took over, things changed right away. That’s why I believe in the market economy, and why I believe in personal liberty. It’s my life. I choose how I live my life. I didn’t know the word, “liberty”, but I knew its meaning. So when I met Ken and he told me, “You’re a Libertarian”, I said “What is a Libertarian?” but I knew the concept. I do what I do now because I don’t want anybody to live the life I had before.

For example, you have your life. But what if, tomorrow, you had nothing? What if you were put in prison? I don’t want to see that happen to anybody, but if we don’t fight, it will slowly happen. Even in America, they want big government. The government tells you what to do. They don’t know the harm of government telling people what to do instead of people making decisions for themselves. They don’t know. So I have to tell them.

Q: That is why you are advocating liberty in Shanghai.

A: Right. Everywhere.

Q: Everywhere.

A: I can give talks in public; they have gatherings, and I give talks. I ran for public office five times. I used to give talks every year when they had Tea Party rallies, but now I talk to the whole world. China, of course, but I also do it in Eastern Europe. Now I’m going to Muslim countries, because it’s very dangerous when you are brainwashed by the government, so I want people to learn how to think for themselves. I also write parenting articles in China. I want to teach the parents. If the parents teach their children to be independent thinkers, then the next generation that will have it better. Since the alternate is too horrible, I cannot just sit by and see the world go in that direction. So I try to do what small thing I can.

My mother, father, and my brother are in America. That’s another thing we thank God. We don’t have a lot; we don’t live together because my parents live in Dallas, my brother in Kansas, and I’m in Hawaii. But we’re always very, very thankful and happy, because we live together in a world that’s kind of safe. My grandmother, my grandparents were in Shanghai, but now they all passed away. I have other relatives, uncles, but they are okay. But my immediate family, we’re all in America.

Q: So your father came back safely from jail?

A: Yes. Right. He had a good attitude. One time he was doing some labor, fixing the house. He said, “Oh, I thank the prison that made me work so I know how to do the floor! I know how to do cement work.”

 

The Second Cultural Revolution

Q: What do you think is going to happen in China with the government?

A: Oh China, the Cultural Revolution is starting again.

Q: Starting again?

A: Yes. It’s very bad right now with Xi Jinping. Some say the Cultural Revolution never ended, but some people say it’s the second coming of the Cultural Revolution. We all say it already. They’re not attacking everybody right now, but people can’t think and talk freely. People like me lived in China, it would be difficult. I’d already be in prison. I’m not in China, so I’m safe. But Chinese scholars, they are in danger right now.

Q: Xi Jinping is tightening his grips on his people.

A: Yes. Just yesterday a new law was passed to keep crowd-funding limited to family members. Outside of family members, giving money in the form of crowd-funding is illegal. That’s so strange. If you’re my sister, I’ll ask you for money instead of asking for crowd-funding. We don’t need to go to Facebook to give each other money. It sounds ridiculous, but they don’t want people to help each other. And just last week, it became illegal for any publications, online or not, that are associated with foreigners to introduce any videos. It doesn’t matter what content. It could be literature; it could be comedy; it could be a lecture to intellectuals. No matter what content, those associated with foreigners cannot put up any videos. And every week they have new laws like this now, and they want to control the discourse, people’s thoughts, and the education. Last month, a new law was introduced forced every educational institute from elementary school to university to teach communism. Their rationale was that “If you love China, you must love Communism first”, and so that became law. So every classroom now, every day the teacher has to teach the children to love Communism.

Q: So is there any way to prevent a second Cultural Revolution from happening?

A: No it’s happening already.

Q: It’s happening already.

A: Yeah, but thanks to social media, people can still think and criticize. But hasn’t become a force yet. If they get together and do something, that will be good, but right now, it’s limited. So we’re hoping we can stop or get rid of Communism. Hoping.

Q: So we need to create a stronger force?

A: More people talk and teach, because the government is very successful in teaching people to become materialists. They let people buy more things and make more money, so people don’t pay attention to politics. They say, “Okay, make more money, buy more things, but expensive things”. That makes the government very happy.

Is The Second Cultural Revolution At Hand?
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