CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 April 2017

Print Version    Email to Friend
A Cultural Revolution in playback mode

BEIJING (UCAN): This year began in China with the sacking of a university professor, Deng Xiangchao, after he posted some critical messages about the first chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, on social media.

Shandong Jianzhu University sacked Deng for airing his opinion on how many millions of Chinese died because of decisions made by Mao and the madness he often orchestrated.

“If he’d died in 1945, China would have seen six million fewer killed in war. If he’d died in 1958, 30 million fewer would have starved to death. If he’d died in 1966, 20 million fewer would have died in political struggles. It wasn’t until 1976 when he finally died that we at last had food to eat. The only correct thing he did was to die,” Deng wrote on December 26 last year, the day the country was celebrating the 123th anniversary of Mao’s birth.

The committee said Deng’s opinions about Mao, as well as other comments he made on the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976), had a bad public impact.

Deng was also dismissed as a counsellor by the Shandong Provincial People’s Government, a position he had held since 1997.

The day before he was removed, Deng’s comments had prompted an ultra-left group that believes in state-sponsored nationalism to protest against him.

Members of this group of Maoists turned up at the university on January 4, holding banners and shouting slogans against the man they accused of “publicly opposing Chairman Mao, the Chinese Communist Party and socialism.”

They demanded the Education Bureau of Shandong remove “such counter-revolutionary elements from the education field.”

Things heated up when they clashed with a group that supported Deng. The ultra-left group accused them of opposing Mao under the guise of freedom of expression.

The activities of this group are a reminder of the brutality that was the Cultural Revolution, a movement that ripped Chinese society asunder and along with it the Catholic Church, which had already suffered under Communist rule.

In the mindset of the ultra-left, Mao is deemed a great leader. The mindset allows only one political line of thought, as during the Cultural Revolution. Outside this mindset there are only counterrevolutionary influences.

The ultra-left never admits Mao had any shortcomings.

A repeat political struggle akin to the Cultural Revolution is once again emerging and making a mockery of any call for the rule of law.

If this culture of intolerance really does take hold, what occurred at the university could be a harbinger for what the Church in China may face.

The patriotic faction within the government-sanctioned official Church community could even face similar political struggles, as their predecessors did half a century ago when churches were ransacked and Catholics persecuted by fanatics.

But Deng is not the first to fall. In April 2015, Bi Jianfu, a host on China Central Television, lost his job after a leaked video showed him criticising Mao during a private banquet.

But these Cultural Revolution-type incidents are not confined to the hard left, they are also supported by unseen political forces that oppose freethinking assessment or criticism of the Communist Party.

The dynamic was apparent, as during the protests, government security officers only confiscated the banners of Deng’s supporters, not his detractors.

When a scuffle broke out, security did not interfere and the police came late. There was tacit cooperation from security and police.

This is a travesty of the rule of law and shows how violence can be supported by institutions in a way reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.

What Deng went through was similar to the slander dished out against Christianity when Christmas was labelled a foreign celebration, even though it was kept low key because of the popularity of the feast among non-Church people.

There was a rally last December by the Chengdu Aeronautic Vocational and Technical College in Sichuan province. Students wearing ancient Han costumes railed against the infiltration of foreign culture, holding placards reading No to Christmas and We don’t want fake foreign festivals.

At the Ninth National Congress of Catholic Representatives held in late December the path of patriotism was advocated by the Communist Party and the congress vowed its support to the leadership of the party.

But with political backing, the ultra-left continues to push its agenda, spelling danger for the Church, as the promised loyalty of the Catholic representatives means little.

During the Cultural Revolution, it was not just those who refused to abandon their faith that suffered, as many of those who were victims during this period had once cooperated with the Communist regime.

History has lessons and they should not be forgotten. Events such as the Cultural Revolution are not stopped by an optimistic view that tomorrow will be better.

More from this section