The eldest sister was locked up and beaten often. The 19-year-old was imprisoned. The 17-year-old had to sell his blood. The 14-year-old wandered the streets and even the 6-year-old suffered the angry shouts of Red Guards.
They were the children of Liu Shaoqi (Liu Shao-chi), president of China and second only to Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Tse-tung until 1966, when Mao used a Cultural Revolution to overthrow Liu and plunge Liu's family into a decade of suffering.
Yesterday, five of Liu's children disclosed what happened to them in those years, and for the first time gave the exact date and time of the former president's death: Nov. 12, 1969, in a prison in Kaifeng, Henan Province.
In an article in the official Workers Daily, Liu's children Aiqin, Pingping, Yuanyunan, Tingting and Xiaoxiao said their father advised them as the Maoist political attack mounted: "Because of me, the masses will be hard on you for awhile, but you should put up with it. If you study hard and well, they will come to understand and take care of you."
The article was a celebration and appreciation of Friday's announced decision by the Communist Party Central Committee Party Central Committee to restore completely Liu's good name. It removed the labels of "renegade, hidden traitor and scab" that had been attached to Liu by an earlier Central Committee in 1968.
The article included a photograph of four of the children, the youngest now about 19, and Liu's widow Wang Guangmei, all smiling as they read the party communique announcing Liu's rehabilitation.
"If our dad was still alive, he would have been very happy about it, for through his whole life he tried to build a good party, seeking truth from facts and . . . strengthening party unity," the article quoted them as saying.
Liu and Mao had personal differences. Mao apparently also feared that Liu and several other veteran officials wished to let an elite group of party technocrats run the country instead of building popular enthusiasm through continual purges.
After Liu's death, with the government and economy in ruins, Mao thought better of his plan and began to bring many of Liu's colleagues back to power, including the now powerful Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping. Three years after Mao's death, those colleagues have succeeded in finally removing most of Mao's closest supporters from office and reversing the verdict on Liu.
Mao's supporters had accused Liu and others of becoming too enamored of their party privileges, like officials in the Soviet Union.
The children's article insisted Liu thought it was "incredible and a shame" for high officials to enjoy great privileges. It said that as the attacks on Liu reached a peak, he "mentioned several times that he would resign the posts of president and member of the Central Committee and take his wife and children to Yenan [the old Communist revolutionary base] or his home town to farm so the Cultural Revolution could end as soon as possible."
The article said the family received "phone calls and cables one after another" after the party's decision was announced Friday night.
Over the last year, it has been made clear that Liu's case was being reconsidered. Wang Guangmei reappeared in public and was given a government job. The youngest daughter, Xiaoxiao, was admitted to prestigious Peking University and the fact published in the official press.