Middle Kingdom Tales

人间烟火

The Murdered Child, The Faulted Country

(edited)
Today is one day officially past the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and this is a fictional piece I wrote in Chinese and later translated into English.

When she was only 8 years old, she came back to her motherland with her parents. Hoping to devote themselves into the building of socialism, they found themselves labeled as “counter-revolutionaries” in the great leader’s relentless political movements. Red guards took pleasure and pride in publicly humiliating her parents in their carnivalesque public denunciation rallies. During her stay in the States, her mother used to describe to her the dreadfulness of the Southern whites who took pleasure in lynching innocent Blacks—crowds gathered around a person, beating, shouting, lashing, and tormenting the poor soul inside a black skin for a crime that he had never committed. She could not help but thinking of how similar these two groups of people were—racial supremacists covered in white gowns and the Red Guards dressed in their green uniforms. She hated totalitarianism to her bones. A paper of political rehabilitation for her and her parents surely cannot ease her hate for all the injustice this regime has imposed on her, yet she somehow saw the hope of a reform and liberalization when the new president claimed to a western journalist that the old time of class struggle was over and the very right of free speech was protected. Hence, she took it to the street when hearing the very president who rehabilitated her parents was stigmatized as a “capitalist liberal” and “right-wing reactionary.” She was a university student, a chosen one as the Gaokao was finally restarted after that 10 years’ havoc.

When he was only 5 years old, his parents were starved to death. He was convinced that it was no fault of the great leader as they were merely doing a great socialist experiment. The PLA soldiers passing by his hut adopted him, raised him as if he was one of their own. Kindness and education from these revolutionary soldiers who he saw as his fathers convinced him of this regime’s legitimacy. He never questioned the authority of his Great Leader and never thought the famine and the 10 years’ turbulence had anything to do with his chairman. The great revolutionary mentor was merely taken hostage by those evil Gang of Four. He was also a staunch party member. He risked his life saving a kid from a tumbling house in the Tangshan Earthquake. A falling brick hit him and almost made him paralyzed for life. He held on to his Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points for Attention. The cordiality he received from those people during his troop’s disaster relief operation made him believe that as people’s soldiers they were always on the side of the people.

However, he was confounded with doubt and insecurity. He was called upon to quell down a “counter-revolutionary riot fomented by a very small minority of people” but all the civilians around them looked at them with resentful eyes. Old grandmothers walking with canes stumbling on the road cursing him and his comrades as “bad boys.”

They were in this nation’s capital. A boy once determined to protect the fruits of revolution and a girl dedicated to promote the rule of law for her people.

The flowers of the motherland and the people’s soldier were as confused and scared as each other. They were no doubt both concerned about this country’s future, but what kind of future does this country have anyway? Officials profiteering from the embezzlement of public resources and the political reform was as stagnant as it was insignificant while the inflation had made so many penniless in their pockets.

He had no idea why this country’s ruling old men would have such an issue with a group of people who were merely peacefully protesting their constitutional rights and what is more perplexing is that these young people waving the same kind of national flag and singing the same Internationale were labeled as “rioters.” What is wrong here? He was templating. His long secluded life inside the military barrack made him unaware of all the things that had happened—intellectuals being pulled out of their houses by their hairs and the starving villagers shot to death as they were merely trying to survive by stealing food from the collective farm.

She stared into those soldiers with fear as the letters presence provoked her miserable memory under the military court. Memories from the Cultural Revolution was still lively and the subsistence under totalitarianism is still suffocating. She and her parents innocently thought of the entrance of troops into the cities under the name of “restoration of orders” was the sign of return to normalcy. Nonetheless, soldiers whose revolutionary zeal was so great simply decided to make an example out of everyone. Her father was executed along with a red guard. A rational and western-educated intellectual and an uncouth radical Maoist are surely nothing of the same kind but what is the difference under a regime that always prioritizes stability and a leader who only craves for power? Soldiers merely wanted to show their loyalty to the regime by executing as many “counter-revolutionary spies” as they could and these good-old bourgeoisie were the perfect targets. When the whole movement was over and she petitioned the authorities to punish those rabbles who humiliated her family, the authorities never bothered to carefully investigate the case but merely executed one of the several leaders as the others were all sons and daughters of the old-revolutionary leaders and of course, they were rich enough to pay her and said:”we have already paid you the money and served our sentence, what else do you want?” What she did not know was that, those rabbles easily became big business figures and high-level officials through the nepotism of their parents and paid ten-times the money of her compensation to the families of that red guard who was executed. She thought of and old scholar’s words as he was bicycling among the students who erupted out of the gate of the campus to the Square. He was shouting:” Don’t you ever go, those communists will make you suffer!” Nobody listened to him. Why didn’t they?

Suddenly a heat struck her chest and she fell to the ground. It was so quick that she felt no pain but simply could not get up. She wanted to talk but her lungs were flooded with blood and she began to suffocate. Before she forever closed her eyes, she saw a soldier who just briefly exchanged looks with her being put down by her classmates. She wanted to tell them that it was not this young man who fired the shot but it was futile. She died before she could even mutter a word.

He was simply outraged and knew that something was wrong when seeing the girl he looked at fell. He wanted to turn around and ask who opened fire but he was given no time to think and was put to the ground by the very same crowd of people who were singing with them the Internationale. He was kicked around by these people like a soccer ball and blood gushed out of his face. He wanted to explain that he was not the one who fired the shot but the sound of gunfires, cryings, and shouting went over his voice. He was dragged around like a bag of rice and tied to an electric pole. Some liquid was poured upon him. He saw the man before him lit a match and the next second he was on fire. He started screaming before he was finally burnt into a piece of charcoal.

Both were young and reckless. Both believed in a better future for this nation in her 40th anniversary. Both were convinced what they were doing was for the fruition of four modernizations. Yet life is so ephemeral that it simply perished in the storm of bullets and fire.

His mother received a letter telling het she should be proud of her son who sacrificed himself in the combat against counter-revolutionary riots in this nation’s capital, yet the pension she received was so minimal that she had to keep working till her sixties so that she may feed herself and his little brother.

Meanwhile, her mother was never able to retrieve her body or say what was left of it after the tank crushed into the crowd. Yet this heartbroken woman knew, much to her relief, that there was a group of people in another place who would take it to the streets every year to voice their support for her daughter and many other young people who died in that event, demanding their rehabilitation and the punishment of the very premier who insisted the clampdown. She was also lucky enough to die before another similar event took place 30 years after her daughter’s death, hence spared herself from another heartbreaking moment. That event finally stripped away the remainder of the “One Country, Two System” in that city. People there no longer could go on protest for the death of her innocent child.

On that date, the descendants of Yan and Huang cried in agony once more. Their sobbing continued for a very long time and could still be heard till this day. Yet the very tears the heirs of the Dragon had shed for this atrocity were merely one drop in the valley of blood and tears through which this newborn republic and ancient people are tottering through towards their own modernity.

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