China arrests writer who chronicled victims of Chairman Mao’s ‘anti-rightist’ campaign

Tie Liu charged with illegal business activities and creating a disturbance

A portrait of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong with a credit card sticker: Tie Liu, a 81-year-old writer, whose real name was Huang Zerong, spent over 20 years in prison as a “rightist” during Mao’s campaign. Photograph: Kevin Frayer

A portrait of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong with a credit card sticker: Tie Liu, a 81-year-old writer, whose real name was Huang Zerong, spent over 20 years in prison as a “rightist” during Mao’s campaign. Photograph: Kevin Frayer

 

Police in Beijing have formally charged Tie Liu, an elderly writer whose memoirs described the plight of victims of Chairman Mao Zedong’s “anti-rightist” campaigns of the 1950s.

The 81-year-old writer, whose real name was Huang Zerong, had himself spent over 20 years in prison as a “rightist” during Mao’s campaign, which began in 1957 and targeted liberal intellectuals. The Communist Party eventually cleared his name in 1980.

Huang has been charged with “illegal business activities” and “creating a disturbance”, his wife told The New York Times. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

“I had expected bad news,” Tie’s wife, Ren Hengfang, told the newspaper. “But this still seems a bit abnormal.”

He was originally detained last month on charges of “picking quarrels and creating trouble” and has been held in detention since then.

The Communist Party acknowledges that mistakes were made during Chairman Mao’s era, including the anti-rightist campaign, the Cultural Revolution – a period of ideological frenzy that destroyed millions of lives – and the Great Leap Forward, a failed agricultural experiment that caused a massive famine.

However, any historical accounts of what happened are heavily censored. Huang’s accounts were often handwritten or cheaply printed and had a very small distribution, and were never officially released.

There were reports that the day before his detention, meat laced with poison was given to Huang’s dog, whom he had named Mao Mao in an ironic tribute to Mao.

A domestic helper, Huang Jing, who helped with Huang’s publishing work, was also arrested, according to reports.

Formal charges allow the police to hold him for a longer period and build a case against him.

He has recently written articles critical of Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan’s restrictions on press freedom in China.

He has also written articles critical of Mao and the current Communist Party leadership, including President Xi Jinping.

President Xi has taken a hard line against dissent and scores of activists, writers and artists have been rounded up in recent months. In August, the well-known Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng was released having allegedly suffering physical and psychological abuse in jail.

Ms Ren said her husband had been warned to think twice before publishing his critical articles.