Chinese authorities today provided the first official sampling of the human costs of the Cultural Revolution, asserting that more than 34,000 innocent people were killed and half a million persecuted in incidents inspired by the Gang of Four and other radical disciples of Mao Tse-tung.
The death and casualty count for Cultural Revolution activities in a dozen provinces of China in the late 1960s was contained in the second installment of a criminal indictment against Mao's widow and nine surviving radicals who steered the 10-year campaign through some of its most violent stages.
The 10 disgraced radicals, who held the highest political and military posts in China until their downfall in 1976, are expected to stand trial within days on charges of plotting to assassinate Mao, persecuting party and state officials and planning an armed coup d'etat.
Their trial has broad political significance both as a final verdict on the bloody and economically disastrous Cultural Revolution era and as a catalyst for the pragmatic leaders who have run China in the last four years and seek to root out the last vestiges of radicalism.
Although Chinese authorities have roughly estimated as many as 1 million deaths in the Cultural Revolution, the accounting in today's set of charges is the first official effort to document the human wreckage left by young Red Guards who were ordained by Mao to inject "revolutionary zeal" into Chinese politics and society.
The specificity of charges in the isolated cases cited today -- while largbely unsubstantiated -- indicates the thoroughness with which the government plans to prosecute the case as well as official attempts to portary the forthcoming trial as a fair, criminal matter and not a political vendetta.
The latest accusations also reveal some fresh details about the activities of Mao's widow, Jiang Qing, who allegedly dispatched 40 friends posing as Red Guards to break into and ransack the homes of five Chinese artists and writers in search of old letters and photos that apparently incriminated her.
Jiang Qing, who was a film actress in the 1930s before she married Mao and eventually became the leader of the Gang of Four, is accused of supervising the burning of materials found in the break-ins. The materials apparently revealed her past friendships with the then-discredited artists.
One of the homes allegedly ransacked belonged to the late Zhao Dan, once a leading screen and stage actor who co-starred with Jiang Qing in a production of "A Doll's House." In 1966, she had him placed in solitary confinement for 5 1/2 years, apparently out of personal pique.
Many break-ins during the Cultural Revolution, according to the indictment, were performed by a secret organization directed by former party vice chairman Zhang Chunqiao. This shadowy group specialized in kidnappings, interrogation and torture to obtain information, said the charges. k
At one point, according to the indictment, Zhang admonished the group: "Be careful. You can spy on others, but they can spy on you, too."
Zhang's organization, it is charged, was responsible for some of the "beating, smashing and looting" of hundreds of thousands of officials and ordinary citizens, including members of the Army, trade unions, Communist Youth League, women's federation, press and Chinese who had returned from overseas.
The indictment contains bare details for each of the incidents in the late 1960s that allegedly resulted in deaths and casualties.
In the southern province of Yunnan, for example, where intense fighting between Red Guards and local Army units raged during 1968, the indictment simply blames the slandering of the provincial party secretary as the cause of "persecution of large numbers of cadres and ordiniary people" and move than 14,000 deaths.
In Inner Mongolia, the indictment charges, fighting between local party leaders and Red Guards were instigated by the late Kang Sheng and Xie Fuzhi, two radical leaders. "False cases concocted" by the two men, it asserts, led to persecutions of more than 346,000 cadres and ordiniary citizens, of whom 16,222 died.