Mao's Last Revolution

By Roderick Macfarquhar; Michael Schoenhals | Go to book overview
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The Last Days of Chairman Mao

Lesser mortals were not as lucky as Deng. The events in the provinces in March and the "counterrevolutionary political incident" in Tiananmen Square provoked a nationwide crackdown. Between April 4 and May 21, the Ministry of Public Security issued five "Telephone Notifications" to its organs nationwide, urging them repeatedly to strike hard against persons who "fabricate or spread counterrevolutionary rumors," as well as anyone caught disseminating "the so-called Premier Zhou's last will."1 The intensity of the ensuing crackdown varied greatly among localities. In Mao Yuanxin's home province of Liaoning, a two-week-long meeting of senior party and public security officials in the second half of April identified "counterrevolutionary rumormongers" as key targets of a more general crackdown on "counterrevolutionary activities." By September, some 685 suspects had been investigated and 213 detained for what was rarely more than an expression of guarded sympathy for Deng Xiaoping and muted criticism of Jiang Qing et al.2 In the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, every urban resident known to have visited Beijing in late March/ early April was investigated, and among them some 280 (one in four) persons who turned out to have been in the square were made to surrender 154 photographs of "activities and reactionary poetry"3

Estimates of the severity of the post-Tiananmen crackdown in China as a whole vary tremendously. One almost certainly misleading claim by the Ministry of Public Security has it that "within forty days, some 1,662 persons had been detained and 390 arrested nationwide."4 A detailed German study cites Hong Kong estimates to the effect that "millions were drawn in nationwide" and Taiwan intelligence sources claiming that "close to 10,000 lost their lives, nationwide"; the study points out that if figures like these are to be believed, this would have been "one of the biggest mass persecutions in the history of the PRC."5 A senior CCP historian made a soberer assessment in 1984: "How many were


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