In the face of silence from the Communist party, a former Red Guard has written a blog about the bloody summer of 66
Thousands of teenage hands rocketed skywards as the Great Helmsman stepped down from the rostrum in Tiananmen Square to greet the shock troops of his revolution. It was the summer of 1966 and Maos Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution a catastrophic political convulsion that would catapult China into a decade of heartbreak, humiliation and deadly violence was under way.
When we saw Mao Zedong wave his hand, we all went berserk, recalled Yu Xiangzhen, then a 13-year-old schoolgirl whose bright red armband marked her out as one of millions of loyal Red Guards. We shouted and screamed until we had no voices left.
Fifty years after the start of the Cultural Revolution, in May 1966, Yu, who is now 64, has been blogging her memories of the period in a bid to prevent history repeating itself.
Chinas communist rulers have remained silent over the anniversary of the devastating political mobilisation, which scholars estimate claimed somewhere between one and two million lives.
But since the start of this year, Yu has been trying to use her blog to tear down the wall of official silence surrounding the events of that bloody summer.
If our descendants do not know the truth they will make the same mistakes again, she wrote in the introduction to her series of online reflections. I want to use real experiences to prove that the Cultural Revolution was inhumane.
Even half a century on, Yu, a retired journalist, says she is still trying to fathom the horrors she witnessed that summer and to understand how she was radicalised into becoming one of Maos little generals.
We became Red Guards [because] we all shared the belief that we would die to protect Chairman Mao, she says over a cup of tea in a Beijing cafe. Even though it might be dangerous, that was absolutely what we had to do. Everything I had been taught told me that Chairman Mao was closer to us than our mums and dads. Without Chairman Mao, we would have nothing.
Yus attempts to remember the mayhem of 1966 began in January, when she began composing short online dispatches on an ageing desktop computer at her home in Chinas capital.
When I started to write, I didnt have a plan, she said. I just wanted to write down what I experienced in those 10 years of cultural revolution. I didnt even have a title for my series of articles.
The former Red Guard decided to start at the very beginning, focusing her first essay on the closure of Beijings primary schools, in May 1966: For me, the Cultural Revolution started at that moment. [So] that was the first article I wrote, said Yu, who was a student at Beijings Chongwen Number 49 middle school at the time.