IN THE FACE OF THE RED GUARD: NIEN CHENG (1916-2009)
Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director, recently left her post as mouthpiece for the Obama administration after a video was found where she called Mao Zedong one of her "favorite philosophers" (along with, for some reason, Mother Theresa of Calcutta). Perhaps before she philosophizes again, she should read a bit about Nien Cheng.
Imagine, if you would, having your home invaded by a gang of politically correct teenaged thugs. Imagine having your goods smashed, books burned, letters destroyed, family pictures shredded. Imagine watching them kill your spouse or child in front of you because they won't denounce you.
Imagine being dragged off to a prison for several years and then being harangued the whole time with the writings of, oh, I don't know, whatever random political saviour of the people happens to be in charge at the moment.
An obituary for the recently deceased 94 year old Nien Cheng, who died in Washington, DC on November 2, 2009, describes a woman who underwent precisely this kind oppression at the hands of Mao's Red Guards, that is, the forces of Political Correctness (to use a term first used in Mao's Little Red Book).
Nien Cheng was a survivor of the Great Cultural Revolution. The Telegraph begins her story with these paragraphs:
Read the whole thing.
On August 30 1966, between 30 and 40 high school students, wearing Red Guard armbands, arrived at the gates of her elegant house in Shanghai to "take up revolutionary action" against her. As the wealthy widow of the former general manager of the Shell oil company in the city, Nien Cheng had been expecting the
The youngsters, seized with Maoist fervour, smashed her antique furniture and porcelain, destroyed her paintings and burned her books. When she tried to save some irreplaceable items she was kicked in the ribs. "They are the useless toys of the feudal emperors and the modern capitalist class and have no significance to us, the proletarian class," she was told.
The visit was the beginning of an excruciating six-and-a-half years of torture, during which Nien Cheng was falsely accused of being a spy and kept in solitary confinement in Shanghai's No 1 Detention House. During her captivity, her only daughter, Meiping, an actress in revolutionary propaganda, was beaten to death by Red Guards.
Maoist revolutionaries used [her employment by Shell Oil] to claim that Cheng was a British spy in order to strike at Communist Party moderates for allowing the firm to operate in China after 1949. Her book documents her amazing courage and fortitude that enabled her to survive her imprisonment.
Cheng endured six-and-a-half years of squalid and inhumane conditions in prison, all the while refusing to give any false confession. ... Cheng was rehabilitated after the Gang of Four (including Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong's wife) were arrested, and she used the opportunity to leave for the United States, as she was still a constant target of surveillance by those who wished her ill. Cheng used Mao's teachings successfully against her interrogators, frequently turning the tide of the struggle sessions against [them].
After she was released, she managed to go into exile from the regime that despised her, and, like her spiritual brother Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, she looked to the West as a place of refuge among some who were still arbitors and protectors of human freedom. She made her way to Canada, and applied to enter the United States. Having been told that she could be granted immediate entry if she asked for asylum, she refused as a matter of principle: instead, she waited for an immigrant visa to come up in the normal turn of events. She immigrated to the United States in 1982 and, in 1987, was seated at a place of honor next to Ronald Reagan at a state dinner.
She told the story of her stand against tyranny in her book Life and Death in Shanghai.
Further information on her is given in the Times of London biography here.
She passed away in her sleep at the age of 94.
The fates of the Red Guards who brutalized and tortured her and murdered her daughter--like the eternal fate of Mao Zedong--remain unknown at this time.