China's chief prosecutor called yesterday for a public trial of the Gang of Four -- the late Communist Party chairman Mao Tse-tung's widow and three confederates -- on charges that include trying to murder Mao and seize power.
The official New China News Agency reported that prosecutor Huang Huoqing asked the standing committee of China's parliament for emergency legislation permitting the trial "in view of the seriousness of the case." No date for the trial was announced although previous indications have suggested that it could come this month or next.
Huang also disclosed that six other defendants will stand trial, including Mao's ghostwriter and adviser, Chen Boda (Chen Po Ta). All 10 have been in custody since Mao's successor, Hua Guofeng, ordered their arrest shortly after an alleged attempt to seize power in October 1976. Mao died on Sept. 9, 1976.
The six defendants in addition to the Gang of Four were known as associates of the late defense minister Lin Biao (Lin Piao), who was killed in a plane crash after allegedly trying to seize power five years earlier.
Details of Huang's official report to the parliament's standing committee were published early today by New China. It quoted him as saying the "counterrevolutionary cliques of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing" [Chiang Ching], Mao's widow, will be prosecuted for "sedition and conspiracy to overthrow the political power of proletarian dictatorship."
The prosecutor further specified the charge of "plotting to murder" Mao and "engineering a counterrevolutionary armed rebellion." Under the Chinese criminal code, that crime is punishable by death. It has been indicated unofficially that a death sentence will not be sought.
Mao's widow, now 66 or 67, is a former movie star who became his fourth wife in the late 1920s. She remained in the background until his waning years, when she suddenly burst into prominence as a leader of the 1965-76 Cultural Revolution and chief commissar of the arts and the media.
Huang told the standing committee that a separate trial will be held of others accused in the alleged conspiracy in addition to the 10 named today.
Of the six added defendants, only Chen Boda is generally known outside China. The others include four generals who served under Lin Biao.
The Gang of Four consists of Jiang, ex-Politburo member Zhang Chunqiao, ex-party vice chairman Wang Hungwen, ex-vice premier Zhang Chunggiao and theoritician Yao Wenyuan.